Alech Busy. If I don’t get back to the forge soon, the boys’ll be getting up to no good, lazy louts. So I hope this won’t take long.
Well, we’ll do our best. How long have you been with the Circle of Mages?
Alech I was here in fairly early days. It was just a wee settlement then… a few cottages and a main house. I built the first forge here. So, round about nine hundred years ago or so.
That’s an impressive amount of time. How has it changed since then?
Alech Well, it’s bigger, more organized. In the early days, we were more like a settlement of school boys, with Cristov as our Headmaster. That’s basically what he was, anyway. A good man, Cris is, but year after year of dealing with us would wear anyone out. He tired of us and left.
Cristov left the Circle of Mages?
Alech Oh yeah. For ‘bout a month, and it was hell, let me tell you. No one cooperated with anyone else. Some were just doing whatever they wanted, wreaking havoc, tearing the place up. The rest of us were just trying to keep the place together. Then Jasper went out to find him and begged him to come back. After that, we created the Council of Mages to rule the settlement and take some of the pressure off of Cris.
Did it help?
Alech Yeah, but Cris has never been one to sit back and stay silent. He was still our leader and always has been, but it helped. At least after that, we relied more on consensus than just holding Cristov responsible for every decision. That way, no one could complain that Cris was being unfair because it was the way we all wanted it.
Have you served on the Council all this time?
Alech No, not the whole time. This is my third go at it. We elect Council members every twenty years or so, rotating so that only one is replaced at a time.
Have you ever had a really bad council?
Alech No, not really. First of all, Cristov wouldn’t put up with it. We’ve had really bad councilors, but Cris can poll the Circle and have them ousted if we don’t like what they’re doing.
Poll the Circle? I’ve heard that before. What does it mean?
Alech It’s when the Circle votes on an issue. The truthsayers set it up, we each get a vote, and the majority wins. Simple as that.
Even if Cristov disagrees?
Alech Cris is nothing if not fair. Majority rules – period.
So, you’re what they call a spark, aren’t you? What does that mean?
Alech A spark is the most common kind of fire magicker. We all have different things we specialize in – some fire magickers have more practical skills, like heating and such. Others are more artistic – those that work for forge, for instance. But we all have one thing in common – and that’s the secret of the sparks.
And what is that?
Alech I can’t tell you that. You have to be a spark to know.
Aw, c’mon! You can’t tell me there’s this big secret and then refuse to tell me what it is!
Alech Of course I can. I just did.
So you’re seriously not going to tell me?
Alech I just said that.
Is this the famous weird spark sense of humor?
Alech Don’t know what you’re talking about.
Everyone says the sparks have a strange sense of humor.
Alech Such as?
Well, I don’t know, do I? That’s why I’m asking you!
Alech Get lippy with me and I’ve got lots of other stuff I could be doing. Ye’ll keep a civil tongue in your head.
***SIGH*** Alright. I’m just referring to what I’ve heard.
Alech The boys think it’s fun to set themselves on fire and get a rise out of other folks. When they’re young, you have to get ‘em real early to teach them that, while they can set themselves on fire, they can’t set other folks on fire. They don’t understand that fire burns.
What does fire feel like to sparks?
Alech It varies. Sometimes it tickles. Sometimes it pounds. Sometimes it feels very nice.
But not hot?
Alech It can feel warm if you want it to, but sparks don’t get cold very easily.
Do you ever get burned?
Alech If you’re foolish enough not to pay attention, of course. Fire can easily get out of control… another reason sparks are required to be in training almost from birth. Of all of the magickers, they’re one of the most dangerous.
You rule the forge with an iron hand. Why is that?
Alech Even though many of the sparks are several hundred years old, they don’t age much from the day they were maged. So they can be pretty pesky if you don’t keep a close eye on them. They tend to forget themselves, and when a group of them get together, things can get out of hand quickly.
Have there ever been any big accidents at the forge?
Alech Oh aye. One day, the lads thought it’d be funny to start flinging hot metal round at each other. Didn’t pay attention to where the stuff was going, and damn near burned half the Keep down before I got to ‘em. We were knee deep in hair that day in the Council Chamber.
You mean they got sheared for it?
Alech You bet they did. I won’t put up with such nonsense in my forge. It might not affect us, but it affects those around us quite a lot. I was the only one in the forge with any length of hair to speak of for quite some time. Also, the instigator was stripped of rank and had to serve the Keep for awhile.
That seems a bit harsh.
Alech The Council was tough on him for a reason. It wasn’t his first offense. The others, well, hair grows back, doesn’t it? They were embarrassed for a while, but so they should have been. This lad just wasn’t listening and doing whatever he pleased. In a spark, that’s a dangerous, dangerous…
What was that?
Alech Rrrrghh! There’s gonna be a shearin’ tonight if I get my hands on those louts! Gotta go…
Um… bye… he’s gone!
Nathan Sparks are like that. Pay him no mind. They can be talking nice to you one moment and snarling at you the next, then playing a joke on you five minutes later. They’re not really aware of social graces.
Cullen You should talk.
Nathan Well, who asked you, Mr. You’ll-Take-This-Potion-and-Like-It-Or-I’ll-Kill-You-In-Your-Sleep.
Cullen Why would I bother to wait until someone was asleep if I wanted to kill them?
Nathan I don’t know. Why?
Seems to me mages are like that... period.
Nathan I beg your pardon?!?
Cullen I know! How rude.
Nathan Indeed. I don’t think we should talk to her anymore. She’s not very respectable.
Cullen I agree. We really shouldn’t be seen with reprobates, the likes of her. It could damage our reputation.
And what reputation would that be? The one where everyone knows what pills you two are?
Cullen Did you hear something? Sounded like a shrill whine?
Nathan I heard that, too! I think we need an exterminator.
Cullen Oh, no need for that. I have a great atomized solution that should do the trick. It’ll knock… whatever the whiney thing is… flat in seconds. Dead as a door nail.
Nathan Good idea.
You can leave now.