This story is the product of the Foil & Phaser collaboration workshop. Because it is the combined efforts of several writers, the style and content vary from section to section. In order of appearance, the authors are: Lauren Jokl, James Hedrick , Sean Sandulak, AJ Muller, Richard Y, Nicole Poweleit, Jeremiah McCoy. Based upon an original idea by Lauren Jokl. Watch for new Foil & Phaser workshops coming in the new year.
Faylor silently waited by the fireplace like a statue. In fact, he was less than a statue. Calling him a statue implied he at least was there for decorative purposes. Faylor knew that wasn’t the case. Faylor knew that he didn’t exist in the eyes of his owner until it was signaled that he was needed. Until then, he was waiting for that one tiny flick of the left hand that meant he was wanted, and was allowed to exist for those few moments only. Until then, he had to be still, and above all, noiseless.
“Non-magicians should be grateful to their masters”, he had been taught. “If it were not for the magicians, we would still be savages.” Faylor watched as his master, eyes still on the book he was reading, ran a finger up the side of an almost empty wineglass. The wine level rose with his fingertip. “If it were not for magical methods, we would starve after our crops failed or die of diseases from polluted water.” His master raised the glass of wine to his nose and inhaled deeply before beginning to drink. Faylor hoped that he would choke on it.
Faylor knew the room around him was beautiful. The walls were painted so that they were an artwork of themselves. Ornaments made of ceramic and glass sat on every surface, souvenirs from the East, North, South and West as proof of his master’s many travels. Volumes with exotic covers adorned the bookcases on the far wall. Faylor had glanced occasionally and wistfully at them, knowing he would never see past those colourful bindings. He knew better than to let his eye wander for too long. Servants caught not paying attention had a black mark put against their name, and this was considered in the yearly review.
The yearly review was only one moon away, and Faylor had no black marks. He intended to keep it that way. He had known servants to make mistakes, and to have black marks placed against their names. When the yearly review came, their monthly food rations were cut and their access to medicine was restricted. Magicians could and would let their servants die. It taught the others a lesson, and the government would allocate them a new one, usually within a month’s time.
His master, Kyrum Baydown, was not particularly cruel, but neither was he kind. Faylor had heard horror stories of masters who tortured their servants, gave them black marks on a whim and made them do more work than they were capable of. He also heard of masters who never gave out black marks, allowed their servants to take leftover food and talked to them as if they were people. Faylor thought the latter might be wishful rumours.
Faylor saw Baydown glance at the clock over the fireplace. Midnight was approaching. Without speaking, Baydown put down his book, yawned, and walked out of the room. After the door closed behind him, Faylor stretched his stiff muscles before putting out the fire and picking up the empty wineglass. Down in the kitchen, he gave the glass to one of the other staff and was signed out by the house overseer. Outside the manor, it was frosty and Faylor’s breath created small clouds as he trudged down the hill to his home, the cold pervading his thin uniform with ease.
Faylor, like all non-magicians, had been separated from his biological family at birth and had never known them. He lived with four other non-magicians, and they were the closest thing to a family he would ever have. They resided in what could only be described as a hut. Damp infiltrated the wooden walls and the place was cramped, but being here was better than being in the manor. There, the only thing you were allowed to do without express permission was breathe.
He unlocked the old door with a rusty key and pushed through into the communal space. There was a small fire going on the stove, tended by a person Faylor was very glad to see.
“Wyke!” Faylor smiled for the first time today at the silver-haired, elderly man. “You’re back!”
“Yes! I got here this morning, probably just after you left.” Wyke’s eyes wrinkled up as he grinned. He was stirring something in a pan on the stove. “Sit down. I made us both something to eat and it’s just about ready.”
Wyke was retired. At the age of fifty, servants were dismissed by their masters and they were free to do as they pleased. However, there was no such thing as pension plan for servants. Most turned to scavenging or begging. Wyke had looked after Faylor and the others when they had first moved in, and now they were returning the favour. Their rations were not generous to begin with, and sharing with Wyke made things harder, but they managed.
For the past month, however, Wyke had been away. He’d heard of an unofficial congregation of retirees in the East, and he’d been curious. With not much else to do, he’d decided to take a look.
“How did your travels go? We began to worry that you weren’t coming back.” Faylor asked.
“Shh. The others are sleeping. I have a lot to tell you.” Wyke poured the contents of the pan into two bowls. It smelled good. Faylor cautiously tasted the broth.
“This is really good!”
“They grew herbs and lots of other things at the Con. I was allowed to bring some things back with me.” Wyke saw Faylor’s eyes peer curiously over the edge of the bowl, which was raised to his lips.
“So it is real? And they grow food? It sounds really good. No wonder all the retirees are flocking there.”
“It’s better than you would ever believe.” Wyke regarded Faylor with a serious expression. “They don’t just grow food.”
“What else do they do?” Faylor put down his bowl.
Wyke paused for a moment before pulling square wooden box out of his rucksack and placing it on the table. On the front were two rectangular metal grilles. Wyke opened the top, revealing strange mechanisms and dials. He twisted the dials and Faylor jumped as the object began to emit strange crackling and buzzing noises. Faylor’s heart went cold.
“Wyke… is this sorcery?” He was fearful. There were harsh penalties for non-magicians who meddled with magical objects.
“No. It’s a radio.”
TO BE CONTINUED…