The manacles on Favion’s wrists were freezing and threatened to distract him from the court proceedings. In front of him, General Kit sat at the high bench. High-Captain Uswin and Magus Tyn sat at the lower bench. Magus Tyn was scowling. He was the one responsible for Favion’s arrest.
“Cadet Favion Mageson, I’ve heard only good things about you from the captains,” Kit said, “but only bad things from the wizards. The reports High-Captain Uswin gave me say that your training is going well. You work hard and you have shown promise in your leadership. Your marksmanship in particular is being talked about by everyone. Congratulations again on winning the tournament.”
“Thank you, sir. I’m very proud of my victory,” Favion said, wishing the general would get to the point.
“I’m very happy with your progress, but I’ve been hearing complaints from the Wizard’s Guild,” Kit said. “As much as I’d like to disregard them, the wizards are a vital branch of our armed forces and I am required to take their complaints seriously. I’ll let Magus Tyn enumerate his gripes.”
Tyn nearly stumbled on his robes as he stood up from the bench, but he steadied himself against the tall bench using the hook he had instead of a right hand. Favion was fairly certain he knew how he had lost that hand, though of course that would be a state secret.
“Cadet Mageson spreads distrust against the Wizard’s Guild. He has received many warnings for telling his fellow cadets that wizards are dangerous or can’t be trusted. He was arrested when he told a group of new recruits, ‘Don’t make friends with wizards. It will just make it harder when you have to kill them.’ This kind of division cannot be tolerated! We have a hard enough time integrating our forces without active sedition!”
“I’m not trying to spread dissension, sir. I just tell people to be careful around wizards, especially when they’re using a lot of magic.”
“You know the secret, don’t you?” General Kit asked.
“Yes, sir,” Favion replied.
“How did you find out?”
Favion closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t like thinking about that day.
“My brother turned into one of those things in front of my eyes. He used his magic to save my life and it turned him into a monster.” Favion hesitated to continue. “I… had to kill him,” he finished.
“Your brother made a sacrifice!” Tyn said angrily. “And you think the best way to repay him is by encouraging others to kill wizards? You have no idea what it means to be a wizard and what sacrifices we make!” He shook his hook at Favion.
“Don’t talk to me about sacrifice!” Favion spat back. “I’ve lost my brother, sister, and father to your precious magic. Using magic is like burning the house down to kill the roaches. It is not worth the cost!”
“You don’t understand what you’re saying,” Magus Tyn said. “Wizards know when they’re close to transforming. When they get to that point, they either stop using magic, or if they can’t avoid using it, they make sure someone is ready to kill them when they change. It is a sacrifice, and every wizard makes it. You wouldn’t survive if we didn’t. The army needs wizards backing it up. We can do so much more than an average soldier.”
“Maybe, but the average soldier isn’t likely to become the enemy when he has overextended himself.”
“So, maybe an occasional wizard becomes a pincerling?” Tyn shouted. “It’s worth the cost. Just one of my wizards is worth fifty other men!”
“Calm down Tyn,” Kit commanded. “I’m enjoying watching you two debate, but we really need to get back to the matter at hand.”
“You mean the matter of hanging Mageson for treason?” Tyn snarled.
“I would hardly call this treason,” Kit said firmly. “He is merely concerned about the dangerous effects of using magic. I don’t blame him. Having someone you trust suddenly transform into a pincerling and try to kill you… You do what you have to do, but you still feel guilty. I don’t blame him.”
“But, you have to punish him,” Tyn complained. “He deserves to be punished.”
“Don’t worry, Magus Tyn,” General Kit said. “After what I do, he’ll wish I locked him away.”
Favion felt a heaviness in his stomach. What would it be? Whipping? A day in the pillory?
“Cadet Mageson,” Kit said solemnly, “You are hereby promoted to captain.”
“What?” said Favion and Tyn simultaneously. One was confused, the other angry.
“You will be responsible for a company of fifty wizards,” the general said. “You are the perfect man for the job. You understand what can go wrong. You’ve lived it. Other men I’ve had in this position have been too reckless and pushed too hard on the wizards in their command. You know better.”
This was worse than anything Favion had been expecting. He would be surrounded by wizards. He wouldn’t be able to do anything without wondering when one of them would snap and try to kill him. He would never sleep again. Beyond that, if anything happened to any of the wizards in his command, Magus Tyn would do his best to have Favion hanged for it. He was doomed.