Author: Justin Love

It was a hot, sunny afternoon. Reed sat motionless in the tree. He was supposed to be watching the road, but it had been a slow day, and his gaze drifted, watching a bird circling above. Perhaps the town was catching on that bandits were watching this road.

"Oh well..." he thought, it would be time to move on in a few days anyway.

There was whistle from the other side of the road, and Reed's head snapped to attention, looking down the road and then back up it. There came a lone traveler, just as his companion had signaled. Reed whistled back the go ahead signal, and he could feel the excitment rising. No matter how many people he robbed, he was always a little nervous. As long as no one else noticed, he was fine.

Despite the hot afternoon, the traveler wore a blue robe, but the hood was down. A bright red insignia stretched across the front. The robe looked a little travel worn, but still official, like a uniform of sort.

"Perhaps this on will have a decent haul." Reed thought to himself. They had gotten virtually nothing off of the merchant this morning. His cheap figurines weren't even worth pawning off later.

The traveler passed the first set of his companions, and Reed could see some subtle movements as they slid out of there hiding places and approached the side of the road. The traveler didn't appear to notice.

"Here we go again..." Reed thought to himself, as he launched himself forward in almost automatic movements; first the forked branch just below, then the bent one to the left, down onto the pile of leaves for a soft landing.

The stranger just kept walking.

In an almost syncronized motion, the four bandits stode into the roadway, surrounding the traveler.

This got his attention.

The stranger came to halt, and looked up at them, like they were rude childeren interupting a higher pursuit. A raven settled on his shoulder.

"I don't suppose you could spare few hefts for some poor wanders?" Reed said with grin.

The stranger turned his gaze ever so slightly. Now he knew who the leader was. Reed met the stare, trying to appear determined and confident. The stranger's gaze was silent, not overly telling, but Reed could see that that this was a proud one. He hoped that the man wouldn't be too proud to die for his money; Reed hated to kill, but nobody would take his band seriously if they wern't ready to take a life.

"Caw, Caw" - spoke the raven, second only to the wind in breaking the dead silence.

Shortly the traveler reached inside his robe, and appeared to be fiddling with something. Reed tensed up for a moment, his hand creeping just ever so slightly closer to his blade.

With an unenthusastic motion the stranger threw a bag out in front of him. It clinked slightly as it landed.

Reed breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Reed politely thanked the stranger for his contribution, and bid him good day and good travels, as the bandits turned and left with a laugh at thier easy haul. The stranger certainly wasn't rich, but this bag would feed them for a few days while they found a new place to waylay travelers. The stranger just stood there the whole time.

But Reed wasn't as happy as usual. Something was bothering him. He could still remember the stranger's silent stare. Reed could see the contempt in it; he knew that look too well. But it was just too easy...

Reed heard a "Caw" behind him as the raven fluttered back into the air, and he looked back over his shoulder. The stranger hadn't moved. His head was bowed, eyes closed, hands closed except for two fingers touching the opposite hand's at the finger tips.

Reed's heart lept.

"Curses, A Mage!" He said, as he threw the bag to one of his compatriates and turned to run back.

Even as he turned, Reed saw the stranger's mouth start to move, and he could here the incantation.

"Hear me - Spirits of Contempt and Malice."

"This doen't sound like a friendly one." Reed thought as he ran.

"Hear me - Spirits of Flame and Burning."

Thump, Thump, Thump, Reed's footsteps landed faster and faster.

"Hear me - Forces of Destruction."

Thump, Thump, Thump, Reed's heart pounded faster and faster.

"Hear me - Forces of Undoing."

SHWING. Reed's sword lept out from his side. He drew it center for his impaling charge. Surely the man must have heard him by now. That worried Reed even more.

"See before me those who have wronged m... Uggg..." The stranger stopped, and his eyes shot open as the sword slid into his belly.

Reed stopped, his and the stranger's eyes equaly wide in shock.

After a moment he yanked his eyes away from the stare and withdrew his now bloody sword. The man stood unmoving for a moment, then put his hands over the wound and dropped to his knees, bent over just slightly.

"Teach him to try his tricks on me" Reed thought to himself, relived, smug, and horrified all at once. And then he was just terrified.

The man coughed up some blood, and a new resolve came over his face almost instaneously. Reed could see the pain and hate in his eyes.

"...Hear me all things of Vengence and Hatred."

Reed just stood there, to terrified to move. The words eched through him, coveying all the pain and power of thier speaker. No-one had ever kept going after a wound like that.

"Do not let this injury go unmatched, do not let this insult go unoticed."

The sound of running footsteps behind him broke Reed out of the trance, not knowing what else to do, he turned and ran also.

Take this pain and give it form."

The wind rushed past Reed's head, cold against his sweat, his short hair streaming behind him. There was still sizeable distance between him and his companions, but he felt he could cross it in a second. He had never ran this fast before in his life.

"Hear me forces which serve and command me. Take my foes and strike them DOWNNNN!" The mage's bloody hand shot forward, palm out, pointing forward. Even as the last shouted word began, a ball, seemingly made of energy and flame, shot forward from his hand and screamed outward, covering the distance between him and the thief almost instaneously.

Just as it reached Reed, it exploded into force and flame, the shockwave picking the thief up and carrying him forward, clear up to his fellows who were knocked flat by the blast.

A few unlucky trees and bushes burned slowly, not enought to start a forest fire, but several branches were made leafless by the blast. The scents of buring leather, cloth, flesh, and also spilt blood filled the air. The bandits that were still alive were too sore, shocked, and scared to move.

After a long pause to catch his breath and gather strength, the mage carefully stood up, tetering just slightly. The raven had landed back on his shoulder. As he passed by the bandits, he stooped to pick something up. Coins jingled to the ground as the bag fell apart. With a sigh, he riped a part of his robe to scoop them into. He was going to need to get a new one anyway.

"There had better be a doctor in the next town.", Endeavor thought to himself, and to Night.

The raven blinked, cocked it's head, and answered "Caw" in agreement before taking to the to the skies again.

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