Something here was amiss. Haemish's droopy nose wrinkled and his body tensed as an icy tingle rose unbidden up the length of his spine.
As premonitionists went, Haemish was, by far and away, one of the least competent; his talents—or lack thereof—for all magics precognitive and premonitory had led to him resitting, re-resitting, and re-re-resitting his classes in Basic Applications of Reading the Future, never mind his general Basic Applications of Sorcery, Incantations and Chanting classes.
It was, therefore, exceedingly odd, and exceedingly unfortunate, that a vital premonition had come to Haemish, for had it been any other, it may very well have been taken seriously, and disaster would have been averted. Haemish thought on his premonition for a while. He mulled it over in his head, vainly attempting to get his head around the longer words, such as 'asparagus', that featured heavily throughout the message.
He tried so hard that his growls of effort alerted the people around him (Haemish was never without guards, for sorcerers particularly lacking in brain cells had a nasty aptitude for burning things down—usually things of importance or priceless artifacts) to the fact that something was gravely wrong. Bets on what was happening to the clairvoyant were placed swiftly amongst the guards, the most popular by far being that his brain had finally recognised that it was, in fact, inside some sort of prehistoric caveman, and had reverted to its default state of "drool, thump, eat, sleep, poop", although not necessarily in that order.
One of the guards, a younger man by the name of Steev, had bet, however, that the clairvoyant was finally having a premonition, much to the amusement of the others who offered him stakes so high that, was Steev to have survived what happened next, he would have been the richest man south of The Border.
It was not to be, though, and Haemish's premonition continued unaided by a skilled clairvoyant, slowly eroding at his feeble mind until it could hold no more. The wrinkle-nosed sorcerer let out a high-pitched squeak, abruptly farted, and, with the magic unable to escape fast enough through any other orifice, exploded in a shower of flaming giblets, charred lumps of grey matter, cooked gristle, and magician's glitter—A long story involving wizards; magic; death; explosions; and glitter; lots of glitter.
To this day, nobody knows just what Haemish had foreseen, only that the backed-up magic had been an amount so vast that the resulting explosion had blasted apart a goodly chunk of the academy's premonitionary tower--luckily the Arch-Premonitionists were skilled enough to see it coming, and managed to evacuate most of it in time--and had nearly destroyed one of The Border's power conduits. Nearly.
* * *
Deep in the heart of an obsidian cavern at the very core of the North Borderlands, a giant of a man, bedecked in plates of armour as black as night, cursed loudly and thumped a thick stone table upon which lay a murky crystal ball. The table shuddered, as if commanded by some force or other, and splintered into a million pieces, leaving the ball hovering in mid-air, "Oh, now you've torn it." It said.
"Silence!" Roared the man, his accent as heavy as an anvil and carrying command enough to convince an army of the most stubborn Dwarphkyn to sod off home and drink themselves into a stupor—although they'd likely participate in the drinking without needing to be told. The crystal ball flashed crimson and fell silent.
He couldn't understand, it was simply incomprehensible. All the calculations had added up, right down to the final manaquart. He stared at the crystal ball floating before him. It gulped, before quickly spinning around and floating away down a corridor. Why Thann even kept it around baffled him. In fact, Thann's lack of presence at this ritual baffled him even more. With ease that spoke of many a year's experience in telepathy, the man bellowed Thann's name through all of the North Borderlands. Thann soon materialised behind his master. The creature's tall, spindly body belied the magic hidden inside, although most who saw him agreed that he could at least use a sandwich, or perhaps three square meals a day.
It was lucky for Thann that he served as Head of Magical Affairs in the North Borderlands, for such comments were rarely uttered, either mentally or verbally, whilst in his mindshot or earshot. Those few who let slip swiftly found themselves letting their bowels slip into their underwear, along with any other liquidated innards. Since it was awfully uncomfortable walking around in such sodden garments, few people questioned the man outside of the most shielded of spaces.
He sidled up to his master. Too-loose robes buried his meagre frame in a swath of wool and he looked as if he was struggling to stay inside them more than actually wearing them. A wad of greasy, tangled, dark hair sat angrily atop his head, muttering curses under its breath. It looked as if Thann had simply forgone the idea of hair altogether, and had decided to wear seaweed on his head instead—much like the seaweed fashion fiasco of Mudel, but on a far less grand scale.
That, and seaweed actually suited Thann quite well, unlike most of Mudel's inhabitants.
"Master, I have heeded your call." Thann bowed so deeply it appeared for a second as if he might snap at the waist, his limp hair flopped over his face in a large clump, "What is it you wish of me?" Came the barely audible voice from behind the curtain of hair.
The armoured man grasped Thann's hair in a gauntleted hand and pulled him upright, "You knew it wouldn't work."
Thann's small red eyes darted around the room, looking for a quick path of escape, finding none, Thann decided to lie, "You mean it didn't work!?" He put on the best incredulous voice he could muster, which was to simply sound little more surprised than finding out your birthday present from your slightly senile, slightly racist, and ever so slightly homicidal grandmother turned out to be yet another knitted jumper, much like the one you got last year, and the year before that, and the year before that and so on, only this time she managed to spell your name even more incorrectly—yet managed to perfectly spell the vicious racial slur on the back—and managed get even more blood on it.
Thann gasped as the man's second hand clenched around his throat, "You've always been a terrible liar, Thann, it's part of the reason why you're still alive; terrible liars in powerful positions are preferable to excellent liars in powerful positions." He tightened his grip, forcing a squeak of air out of Thann's mouth, "Now, tell me the truth, why did you not inform me that it would not work?"
"I... Din't... Know... Mmself... Flly." Came Thann's pained reply. Like Haemish, if the armoured man had actually listened to this rare bit of truth, he might have spared himself an extra minute of exacting needless torture. But then again, torture can be awfully fun. "Rlly... Din't... Know." Thann cried as the man bashed him against one of the obsidian walls. It was only then that the man believed him, and released his hold, allowing Thann to fall, bum-first, onto the cold, hard floor.
He resigned to sit there until he stopped hurting so much; being seen waddling awkwardly through the North Badlands, one hand rubbing his neck, the other rubbing his arse, would spark many a vicious and only partially untrue rumour, and he could do without all the hassle.
The armoured man took a position in the middle of the room, hands clasped behind back. He glanced at the shattered remnants of the stone table, and with a casual flick of his hand, it quickly reassembled itself. He called the crystal ball back, and sat it back on the table. Then he turned and picked Thann up by the neck of his robes, carrying him in one hand, like a cat carries her kittens in her mouth. He dropped Thann before the table, "Now," He said, rage lightly lacing his dangerously calm voice, "You will find me another student, any student able to get close enough to blow the conduit, and you will do it before I return, have I made myself clear?"
Thann gulped, "Crystal clear, master."
"Speaking of crystal clear," The crystal ball added, "Any chance I could get a clean soon? Maybe a polish?"
"Oh, shut up." Thann muttered, placing his hands either side of the crystal ball. It giggled slightly at the contact, then fell silent.
The armoured man observed for a minute, then clicked his fingers, disappearing in a cloud of black smoke, "Jerk." Thann commented as he sat wheezing in the smog.