This story coincides with
The Call of Magic, Book One of The Fool’s Journey,
a Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy for New Adults, available now on Kindle Unlimited.

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ORG. The Veterans

June 22, 2020

The stack of paper crinkles as it passes around the circle, held tight from nervousness or other emotion.

They take one each, studying the words written on this new contract.

The Page of Swords stands arbitrator over the gathering in his robes of ghost-white. A strong magician, fast with his spear, he is respected. Respect for their leadership is what has gathered these nineteen men and women in common cause, where two hundred nineteen others have gone their separate ways.

The collected Legionnaires wear colors and symbols from every walk of Citadel life.

“Good of you all to come,” the Page says finally, tapping his copy of the paper. “These are the terms of the contract. Take a good, hard look at them and understand what it is exactly that you’re getting into. We had a fifty-nine percent retirement rate for the Legion. Unfortunately, we’ve had a hundred percent retirement rate for the Veterans Society.” His gaze rakes the circle, trying to find fault in those that have come.

Perhaps he hopes to catch a similar weakness before it breaks their ranks again.

“Honeychurch was well liked. It shouldn’t come as a surprise.” A highbrow Australian accent, thick and smooth as honey on bread. The woman who speaks is pale as virgin marble, her eyes chips of aquamarine, her hair tight rows of braided flax. Imperious, aloof, but elegant.

He was surprised to receive the application, even more to see the Veteran Leader of the Ten of Wands follow through. He answers Davies with a non-committal shrug. “Honeychurch wasn’t anything special.” The Page signals the end of the subject with a sweep of his hand. “I’ll give you a few minutes to read it over. Pay special attention to the paragraphs on training. Those will result in immediate action for ten weeks after graduation.”

The collection of Veterans lapses into silence, their eyes trained on the paperwork. A man with ebony skin and large diamond studs breaks the silence. “I liked those magic contracts better.” Jacinto, being a joker. It draws a loose laugh from the Legionnaires, a reminder of a time when they were younger and service was far simpler.

A single paper that does not find an owner completes the circuit, making its way back into the HR Rep’s hands. “Who are we missing?” the Page asks.

“Evie Blue is in the Med Ward.”

“Okay. Pass them in once you’ve signed.” The eerie whisper of writing utensil on paper fills the room. The contracts make their way back around the circle, marked by various curves and streaks in black ink. When he has received the last, the Page of Swords makes his final comments. “Welcome to the Veterans Society. Training will commence the day after the retirement party. Drop your passports off at my office in the next few days and I’ll make the necessary arrangements for a visa.” He moves around the gathered circle, looking the new Veterans in the eye. “Otherwise, you’re dismissed . . . with gratitude.” From the looks that he collects, they know they are doing the Legion a favor.

One by one they trail away, the few members of the previous generations with enough faith to commit after retirement.

The Page of Swords is thorough, examining each contract, updating an internal list within the Soulreach.

The final, unsigned paper makes its way in his hands to the Medical Ward. After a brief and polite conversation about the state of the Legion with Dr. Kagura, the paper finds Evie Blue in the stable care unit, conscious and clear of mind. A fellow Brit, she claps her index finger to her mouth, eyes bright with mischief as the Page steps in.

The white light and antiseptic tang of the hospital comes complete with several amenities, including a privacy curtain.

Someone is speaking on the other side.

The Page of Swords, not wishing to eavesdrop, attempts his speech again, but is waved to silence. The sight of a grinning woman frantically waving a cast to keep him quiet is enough to crack even his measured exterior. Evie curls inward to make room for him. Smiling, he comes to sit on her bed.

Through the curtain, the exotic, lilting tones of Brazil can be heard.

“Muri, you had drained your magic and left yourself defenseless. This bullet wound is of your own making.” Peeking through the screen, a gorgeous woman sits at the bedside of her counterpart, speaking calming words. The Fools. “And the ones you received at the girl’s hands? You would not have them had you worn a null, and those are not the worst of your wounds to begin with.”

“Perhaps if you were to help in soothing them, I might heal faster.” His voice is deep and smooth. He places his hand on her knee. The Page of Swords has no love for Murilo Montes, but even he must admit that he was well chosen. An ounce of seduction made recruitment far easier.

Andressa Azevedo shakes her head, immune, brushes her feathered hair from her shoulders. “Nothing good will come of that.”

He changes pegs, moving from the invitation and back to his grudge. “How is the little monster?”

“She has surpassed all expectations.”

“Oh que?” It is murmured, as if he expected it but had wished her pain.

“While you sat down here this last month, she has become the first in generations to slay one of the Merim.”

The grand reveal has come. The results are spectacular. They watch, the two of them, as Murilo Montes sits back, blown away by the news. It is an odd mix of incredulity, humor, and injured ego that washes across his face.

“She now carries one of their swords.” Andressa pokes his hand, still parked idly on her knee. “No witty words from the malingerer?”

It is a small teasing comment, but the slap of it brings Murilo’s bravado back in a flash. “Killer or no, I will teach her a lesson when I leave this bed.”

Andressa Azevedo stands from her seat and steps away. “I won’t allow you to blame this little girl, Murilo. You must act as a Fool, not be one.” With that she leaves him, brushing past the curtain, disrupting their vantage, the memory of sweet perfume left in her wake.

Though he cannot see the face of Murilo Montes now, the man has stiffened under his sheets.

Evie is grinning, wide eyed, trying to keep her laughter quiet, shaking with the effort. And with a whispered, “He deserves what he gets,” Evie Blue signs her contract.

The Page of Swords shrugs again. “Welcome to the Veterans Society.”

This story coincides with Book One of The Fool’s Journey, The Call of Magic, available now on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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