(Previous Story: The Throne of Obsidian)
Calis liked the new throne made of wood and jewels. Since the death of Argonis a year before, things had quietly slipped back to normal. People still did not entirely trust the flying fortress that had been a place of evil for a few years, but Calis began to slowly win them back.
"We'll sit down in the capital before noon," Draken said as he came into the throne room. "Locan says he senses some trouble there. And I just saw smoke on the horizon."
Calis grabbed his cane and stood to follow Draken out to the balcony. Smoke meant fire, and that was never a good sign. At best it was a disaster, but at worst it was a sign of the Fire Mages rising up again. Argonis had been their leader, but after his death Locan, the king's elderly mage, had learned there were far more of the mages most of them slipping over the borders from the southern lands.
Argonis had won the throne for a while, and now it seemed that every dark mage with longings for power had decided to try his or her hand at taking over the rule. The fact that they considered Calis crippled did much to encourage them.
Draken stopped by the doors that led outside, signaled Calis back, and opened the right-hand door partway, checking outside. He took his duties very seriously, this guard who was the true hero of the country, though he denied it. Without his help, though, they never would have gotten close enough to Argonis to kill him.
"Safe," Draken said. "But a bit breezy."
Calis braced himself as he stepped out into the cold wind. He thought he could feel a little snow in the air. That might help with any fires.
He could see the smoke curling upward along the horizon. The city was not far away, at least, and the fire did not appear to be large. An accident of some sort, he hoped.
"It is near the city center," Draken said. "That could be a problem for us."
"Have Locan meet me in the throne room."
Draken nodded. He called for a servant and sent her on her way, but he did not leave Calis's side. He'd always been a good guard.
Locan strode into the throne room a few minutes later. He looked distracted, and some might think him old and forgetful, but Calis only knew him to be distracted by too many things the mage must keep under watchful eyes.
"How bad is it?" Calis asked. He'd learned not to waste the man's time.
"Not a natural fire, King Calis," the man said. He never forewent courtesies, even when they were alone except for Draken. "I can't say how serious, though. It has the feel of something that's already gotten out of hand."
"I don't know if I should be pleased or not," Calis said. "I don't want to see any damage done, but if it's gotten out of hand, that does mean the mages are not as good as they thought they were."
"True enough, sire," Locan replied. He tilted his head and blinked a couple times. "This may work for us. I don't think we'll have much trouble putting this fire out."
It turned out he meant those words seriously.
They hovered over the fire, far lower than Draken obviously liked, but it would help with control of the water. Locan had placed himself in the lower levels of the fortress and prepared to blow a hole in the bottom of their reservoir. He said it shouldn't be hard to fix again. Calis had to hope he was right.
The fire spread upward towards them, and for a moment, Calis could see the enemy in the heart of the flames, untouched by the fire as he sent destruction everywhere. It reminded Calis far too much of his father's death and the mass of emotions -- mostly hatred and fear -- rushed over him. Then the view passed and he waited for the next step.
It should have happened by now. They were going to be too far over --
The fortress shuddered and bounced slightly. The sound of the falling water was louder than the explosion of rock that had opened up below them.
Steam rose up around them -- uncomfortable and dangerous. Flames followed, but the steam swirled, became a mass of water, and dropped again. Draken grabbed hold of Calis who started to slip on the stone platform, and they both retreated back into the fortress.
Calis thought they must have done well because the Pyromancer did not attack them again. He hoped the man was captured.
Argonis brought them down in the square where the fortress usually settled. Calis had done a quick job of changing clothing since he knew that he always had to make a good impression.
The people started yelling as soon as he appeared. For a moment, Calis feared they were angry, but he soon learned from the Mayor that the Pyromancer had been harassing them for days already and this was not the first building to have gone up in flames.
"I hope that we can quickly capture him," Calis said. "I will not leave you unprotected unless I learn that he's moved on to some other spot."
"Most kind, your highness," the mayor said and gave a better bow than usual. Calis had the impression he'd finally won the man over, and hopefully the rest of the people as well.
Locan made his way to where the others had gathered. He looked less grumpy than usual.
"Good news?" Calis asked. "Have you already caught him?"
"Better than that. The man drowned. The floor gave way beneath him and the basement filled with water."
"That is excellent news, my friend! Let us celebrate!"
They had a feast the likes of which they had not shared since the days of the old King. Calis had the feeling they might finally be accepting him.