The following is a tribute piece to Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic, Circle Opens, and Circle Reforged books. It is a piece of fan work, written without profit to me.
Lightning flashed through the sky above. A pair of obsidian eyes glared towards the sky as rain poured down over black oiled cloaks. A figure walked through the streets of Winding Circle, a limp in his right leg. Features totally hidden in the cloaks, the person seemed to almost not be completely there, as something beyond the black clothes and the black sky made him hard to see.
The rain came down in sheets, beginning to even soak through the oiled cloak as the figure limped through the white picketed fence of a cozy cottage at the edge of the city within the wall. Something in the person's step brightened as he got closer and closer to the wooden door, a warm light seen within.
With a final limp, the traveler stopped before the door, reached out a black-gloved fist, and knocked hard, three times. The sound showed the worn door held great strength. The sound of footsteps on the other wise made the traveler stand up straight. With a click, the door swung inwards, revealing a warm cozy room, decorated comfortably, not richly, and, the figure had to look down, a girl.
She was a brown skinned child, her eyes green like emeralds, her hair held back in braids of a brown as rich as her skin. She seemed earthen despite her age, and she smiled with an innocence that seemed to warm the rain soaked traveler.
"Heya Master Shadowhand!" the girl chirped brightly, as the man stepped into the room, removing his wide brimmed hat to hang on a simple wooden stand next to the door. "Lark is with her loom, and Rosethorn is in her lab." She informed. "And Niko came by and said he would be in later tonight, or tomorrow morning."
"Excellent child," said the mage as he took of his black cloak, and hung it up as well. He shook himself slightly, to send any other offending water particles flying, before standing up straight. "Run and tell Lark and Rosethorn I'm here, would you, Evvy? There's a copper in it for you." His voice was a low tenor, and silken. The child's face brightened before running off.
The mage turned to look into the mirror above a small chest near the door. He looked at himself. His skin was creamy, his eyes were like two pieces of obsidian, full of dark power, his hair a darker blond, his clothes starched and black, cut sharp but strong. His features were soft, boyish. He smiled, warmly, revealing power, as well as sharp white teeth. He spun around once, admiring his looks, before turning away, and sitting at the small table in the center of the room.
The girl, Evvy, speeded across the room towards another door, apparently trying to avoid the wrath of the woman stomping after her. The door slammed as the woman entered the vicinity of the table, and saw the man at the table. She was middle aged, but still beautiful, and obviously very grumpy. Her walked was slightly halted, but still moving, her hair auburn.
"Good eve, Rosethorn," he smiled to her glare.
"An interesting choice of words, Darren," she replied, a slight slur in her voice.
"Possibly so," he grinned. "But of the two of us, I at least know why I have right to be grumpy. You may have missed it, but it is currently pouring outside, and I walked all the way across the city in it."
"That was foolish," she pointed out as she sat. "You could have used your powers to move across the city couldn't you?"
"Don't think the thought hadn't crossed my mind," Darren grumbled, face suddenly sullen. "But I did lots of work today and was simply too drained. You know I'm still trying to find to defuse the shadow magic used by those killers a few years ago? I still have all the weaves and such that Sandry did, and I still haven't found a way to release the power in it without tearing apart reality."
"Then why bother trying?" a voice asked from the door Evvy had ducked through. Lark emerged, Evvy apparently not coming out quite yet. She was lovely, though also a little tired looking, very much like Darren. "Those people were monsters, especially that poor mage. Why unlock the power there?"
"Because I personally can learn quite a deal from what he did, Lark," Darren replied as the woman sat. "There aren't many shadow mages, and most of my brethren stay well hidden. I'm young and have no one to learn from. The little I've picked up about my power is all from my own experiments."
Lark and Rosethorn glanced at one another, both shaking their heads. "Darren," Rosethorn started, "How old are you?"
"I'm twenty-five summers this summer," he replied, eyes narrowed, already seeing where this was going.
"And in those twenty-five summers, what are these little things you've picked up about your power?" Lark smiled
"I hate you both, so much," Darren growled.
"He seems to have forgotten, Lark, I think we should remind him," Rosethorn's grin was almost predatory. "He discovered how to use his powers to jump long distances while removed from time and space."
"He learned how to focus his powers to be used as solid energy for battle." Lark smiled at Darren, who was now ducking his head.
"He learned how to look through darkness, using his own magic, and to look from the darkness to anywhere with a shadow." Rosethorn's smile was from ear to ear, as Darren's head hit the table.
"He learned how to circumvent nearly every kind of ward spell to keep people out, and to keep spying out." Lark smiled, though she seemed sore on that one. Darren raised his head just to shoot her a grin.
"He understands how to… " Rosethorn started.
"Alright, I get it!" Darren shouted. "I've picked up more than a little."
"Actually, you may be one of the most skilled mages of your generation. Being ambient only makes it all the more impressive," a male voice said as the door shut silently behind him.
"Hello Niko," Lark said brightly, as Rosethorn nodded to the man. Darren turned to look at the man, the one who had first spotted him in the streets of Emelan, a street rat at the time.
Niklaren Goldeye was graying, becoming the same color as his eyes, the strong gray, that when lit up by his sight magic was like no other power. But his age was beginning to show, and it saddened Darren lately. He wondered, for a moment, what the four, the Circle, as he personally called them, thought.
Darren stood, offering his chair to Niko. The sight mage shook his head, and instead took one from the wall and brought it to the table. Darren sat again.
"Good to see you could make it, Niko," the shadow mage thanked. "Though Evvy had said you wouldn't be in until later."
"Is it not later than from when she told you?" Niko smiled, as everyone in the room grumbled at the poor joke. "I saw you pass through the city while I was at the main temple. I finished up my business there faster than originally planned and came early."
"That explains it," Darren said thoughtfully.
"So, why did you call today, Darren?" Lark asked, causing everyone to suddenly be sitting at attention.
Darren nodded once, before standing, pacing from his chair to the door as he spoke. "As I'm sure you've all noticed, I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in my lab," he glanced to see the three other mages nodding, "The reason to that is simple curiosity into the basic nature of my magic. I've been trying to see exactly what my limits are. How deep is my well? How much can I pull at once? Where do I have more power? Less? And so on and so on. Which is why I have been so drained lately, because among my research has been trying to unlock the killers' shadow mage's power from what I have from Sandry, so that I too can blend completely out of sight."
"And reason why you would want to do that?" Niko asked, not worried, just curious.
"Well, to sneak into the women's half of the bathes, of course!" Darren smiled cheekily. Lark stifled a giggle, Rosethorn glared. "Mere curiosity, Niko. Also would be nice to have for a tight space. And because I'm not particularly addicted to anything, I shouldn't be bleeding power like he did. Generally I don't want to erase myself from existence." Smiled again.
"So, why did you say you were coming to talk? Just to report you are working hard?" Rosethorn's voice was somehow accusatory.
"Oh, no, not that at all," Darren face was no longer smiling. "Yesterday night, my final work was actually trying to find a way to find a way to see the city through one of those glass balls that Tris brought back from Tharios. I was attempting to use my ability to look into shadows to make the ball into a view orb at night. I succeeded partially, I was able to make the orb look out in the area immediately around my lab, and I could move the view with a great deal of effort." His face was grim, "And then I put a little too much effort into the orb and lost control of where it was looking. It seems to still be able to see and seek crime the way it did when in Tharios."
"What did you see?" Niko's voice was urgent, as he sat forward to look directly at Darren.
"I'm not sure what it was," Darren said softly. "But I am damned sure of where it was. It was somewhere under the streets of Emelan, hiding from the sun. It looked like a great shadow, and it moved silently. But it wasn't killing, just hunting, I could feel that. It felt like something I should know."
Niko, Rosethorn, and Lark all looked over the table to one another, worried. "Darren, stay here tonight, will you?" Niko asked, despite Darren knowing he had no choice in the matter. "Your lab and home may not be safe."
"This has something do my past, doesn't it?" Darren asked calmly, understanding.
Lark and Niko nodded. Rosethorn looked grim.
"Alright then," Darren smiled acceptingly. He stood "So, what's for dinner?"