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First Draft Fridays #1—The Sorry Case of Ahrs Brandson

Welcome to my newest blog series, tentatively titled First Draft Fridays. This is where I pull back the mystical curtain between author and fan, giving you a glimpse into the dark, dreary place that is my unfiltered mind. No. It's really nothing so melodramatic. Instead, this will be a segment where I show you what my first drafts look like—before I've made corrections, shifted around character details, and either shored up or trimmed down my worldbuilding elements. Some of these excerpts have never seen the light of day, so I look forward to any comparisons drawn between them and my "clean" (nothing is ever truly clean and perfect) published work. This first entry is the opening scene to a short story I finished at the beginning of April. It occurs on the same timeline as the primary events of Divinity's Twilight: Rebirth (697 A.B.H), and asks a very disconcerting question the main plot has yet to address: in a world of powerful mages, what happens to those with weak—or non-existent—magic? All of Side Story: Ahrs will eventually find it's way into the "Online Library" section of the website. Enjoy! Side Story: Ahrs It was nauseating.

Cast from pure silver and flecked with his own blood, the long needle laughed at Ahrs Brandson, scorning him as it rolled back and forth on the doctor's sanitized leather pad. Out of the corner of his entranced vision, he saw the man shake his head.

"Negative," the doctor pronounced, removing his monocle and wiping it on a pristine white cloth. Not until he'd pulled out a small velvet case, securing the lens fast within it, did he continue.

"Or as close to negative as to mean the same thing."

Ahrs's world swam. Not from loss of blood; the town physician had only drawn enough to fill a small vial, into which he'd sprinkled a salt-like powder. No, he felt sick—to the point of vomiting, of falling on the ground and clawing his nails raw against the cherry-stained floor—because of what the tint his blood had taken on implied.

His father, arms crossed in front of a robed suit-coat, said the dreaded words aloud. "My son is magic-less—a fleb'ilis, as they'd say in the old tongue."

"Not quite." The kind old doctor tapped the vial, liquid grey as the grave. As death itself. "This tiny, almost imperceptible yellow band means he may be able to use the most limited spells, perhaps Talismans or—"

"That won't matter to the recruiters," Lord Brandson growled, beginning to pace back and forth in front of the cold hearth like a chained beast. He paused. Flames, although long-absent from the fireplace, smoldered inside his black pupils. Grabbing the ivy-etched couch back, he leaned in conspiratorially.

"Can you . . . alter . . . the results?"

"Fake them, my lord?"

Lord Brandson's eyes narrowed. "I never said such a thing."

"Even so," the physician flustered, glancing to Ahrs, then his mother hunched in the sitting room's dark corner. "I couldn't possibly try to fool them. My lord, they're testers from the Ritter Order. Sarconia's judges! It would mean my neck to try!"

"How much?" the lord insisted.

Money. Ahrs sank further into his seat, eyes lolling to the crimson swab he loosely held against the inside of his elbow. In his father's world, money solved everything—even if they were the poorest of the aristocracy, the lowest rung of imperial nobility.

"I-I can't, my lord. Who would care for my ill wife? The townspeople? The—"

"Then get OUT!"

Bowing and scraping, the physician hurriedly gathered his things. In his haste, he forgot the loathsome syringe, scarlet fluid darkening as it clotted. The door banged when he exited the small manse, leaving their family to the solemn silence.

Yet it was an imperfect stillness. Ahrs's mother was weeping, his father was huffing with barely controlled rage, and the slow hardening of the blood on the needle sounded in his ears like an oven filled with crackling coals.

When his father finally spoke, the light filtering through the dusty curtains was dim and sharply angled. Had several hours passed?

"You're a failure," he said, looking straight at Ahrs.

The sixteen year old's lips, pressed tightly together with disuse, parted with a timid pop. "W-what?"

"You heard me," Lord Brandson spat, growing more furious, spinning up into one of his tantrums. "A failure! No magic! No skills! I've wasted sixteen years raising a lump of sorry flesh that's never found a trade, failed the academy entrance exams, and isn't even going to pass the imperial magic screening to be an officer when he turns seventeen . . ."

He hesitated, head in his hands. Then, balling his fists, he roared in Ahrs's face.

"You're DEAD! They're going to make you an infantryman, stick a rifle in your hands, and send you into a breach. You're a corpse walking!"

Face red and fists balled, he came within an hairsbreadth of hitting his son. But a glance at his shadowed wife seemed to hold him in check. Straightening his coat, Lord Brandson stalked from the room, mumbling to himself.

" . . . failure is finished. Have to make a new heir . . . but she's too old for . . . "

Ahrs stared forward. Unspeaking, unfeeling, just as he'd always practiced. When his mind began to turn again, he'd figure out what to do next.

For now he sat . . . and listened to his mother's weeping.

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