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Chapter 1

Fear, with a portion of hatred in the mix.  The familiar phrase ran through Rebeccah's head, the well-thought out answer to the question that kept up its assault on her mind.
How could people do this to each other?
The school's walls had been burned out in several places, and the roof had collapsed.  In some places the destructive forces had been so powerful as to leave the charred edges still smoking even now, several hours later.  In one place, a powerful wave of chilled air had caused the concrete wall to shatter like glass under its own weight.
The fact that the Answerers were behind the attack was evident from the scattered forms outside the School's destroyed walls wearing the blazing eye of the Answerers, the Eye of the Omniscient, as it was so called.  There weren't many, which also evidenced that it had been a sneak attack, the kind that the Answerers were known for.  Known and feared, and also hated for.
Enough, it was time to move in and look for a trace of the defenders.  Rebeccah had been skulking around the perimeter for a good two hours now, her black trench coat obscuring the white dove emblazoned on the crest of her chain mail.  Not a pebble had stirred during her makeshift vigil, and the Answerers weren't ones to waste time.
Silently, she picked her way across the field, a dark smudge on the terrain's silhouette
She ignored the first entrance that presented itself to her,  the gaping hole that had been seared into the wall still smelled strongly of smoke, the rock may still be hot, and the roof was likely unstable.  She crept along an untouched section of the school's outer wall, staying close to the weathered bricks that looked like they'd been laid down quite a while before the Magi had come along.
The double doors had been partially knocked off their hinges when they'd been smashed open, and there was the telltale damage of a weapon on one of them.
She gingerly stepped across the ruined threshold, into the dark hallway.  With a flick of her wrist, she coaxed a flame into her palm, and raised it up to illuminate the pitch-black inside of the gutted school.
The hallway had collapsed not far from the entrance, only one classroom door was available in the dusty hallway.
She ducked inside quickly, no longer trusting the precarious ceiling as much as she'd like.
The terribly familiar scent of burned skin invaded her nostrils the second she swept into the room.  The bodies were absent of the Answerer's Eye, in fact most were children.
They had fallen in a rigid twisted pose that instantly identified electricity as the killer's weapon, even if the scent hadn't given it away.  Rebeccah knelt down next to the closest one, a boy who didn't look any older than twelve.  She rolled him over and looked for an emblem or identifier on him.  His clothes were just normal street clothes, faded bluejeans and a sweatshirt.  If the boy was affiliated with a group, he certainly wasn't announcing it.
The rest were the same, Refugees, most likely, either hiding here or moving through the city.  Rebeccah had seen it happen before, the Answerers were not kind to any mages who didn't wear the Eye, children or not.
She slipped out of the school just as quietly as she'd entered, leaving only some slightly unsettled dust in a dark corridor as evidence that anyone had been there in the first place.

They'd only been there three days, yet Derek already had his office set up for what looked like permanent operations.  They probably wouldn't be here for more than a week, though, fighting Answerers was fast, and brutal.  The fighting could probably have been completely concluded the first day, really, if they'd wanted.  The Doves were far too cautious for that, though, they liked to drag things out, and Derek was no exception.
"How many do you think there were?"
"I'd guess at about thirty Magi, not a single Dusk that I saw."
"No Dusks? Really?"
"It means that they're in a hurry, I don't think they'll be here much longer, we need to hit them before too long, Derek."
Derek wasn't entirely convinced of the necessity of the idea, nor comfortable with it, according to his face.
"We'll see, Rebeccah, but I'm not rushing into anything."
Rebeccah nodded, "Alright then, I'm off to bed, I'm scouting tomorrow.
The old office supply building they were hidden in wasn't quiet even now, late into the night.  Dove Magi were used to keeping unusual hours, especially the covert task forces.  Some people were talking, most were practicing spell forms, although no actual magic flew through the air, not while they were under cover.  Although her plan was originally to go straight to her hammock near the store's front doors, but their makeshift kitchen caught her eyes first.  She was hungry, actually, now that their 'refrigerator' was right in the field of her vision.  She quickly changed course, maneuvering around an unsold desk set, and into their kitchen.  In reality, it was just an old refrigerator that they had grabbed from the abandoned house next door, along with an unsorted pile of other dry goods.
Rebeccah rooted through the fridge until she found what she was looking for, a chicken leg she'd stashed in the back last night.  She conjured a gust of cold air to sweep into the fridge to make up for having the door open, and closed it behind her.
"Aw man, I knew you hid that thing in there somewhere but I couldn't find it anywhere."
"Isn't that the whole point of hiding something? get your own bird if you want some, Roger."
"Some of us don't have any foresight though, Beccy, you keep forgetting that."
She frowned at the childish name, and punched Roger in the arm, "Stop calling me that." She took a bite out of her leg, as he laughed.
"So what did you find?"
"A school full of refugees that the Answerers hit."
"Yeah, Magi kids."
Roger shook his head, "Derek needs to get his ass in gear, we could have hit them before that happened."
"I doubt that, but Derek's too damn indecisive, I agree."
Roger sighed, fatigue showing through the veil of cheerfulness around the young Archmage.
"I need to get some sleep, Roger, we'll have to talk later," Rebeccah interrupted, before she ended up losing more sleep than was safe.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm the only one who doesn't sleep during the day, I know, Goodnight Beccy."
She punched him again, harder this time, and laughed as she bid him goodnight.

Twilight was already settling on the city when Rebeccah awoke next, and went back to their kitchen to get some 'breakfast'.
"Miss Rebeccah?" a young voice inquired from behind her.  She glanced behind her shoulder at the young man who'd spoken her name.
David was a new introductee into the Dove's stealth forces, and a very young face, at only twenty years old.
"Yes David?"
"I was wondering if you could help me practice some swordplay before you go out on patrol?"
"Of course, grab some practice swords and meet me by this place's paper aisle, I'll be there right after I finish breakfast."
David quickly glanced across the walls of the store to locate the aisle-side sign that had 'Lined paper' included on it, before he nodded and ran off.
The aisle was empty except for the nervous youth when Rebeccah arrived.
"Are you comfortable with the stances and forms, or do you just want to spar?"
"Sparring would be good, Ma'am"
David really needed to calm down, if Rebeccah made him this nervous, she was afraid to imagine what a snarling Answerer would do to him.
They sparred for a few hours, David taking his fair share of hits and then some.  During rest breaks, she gave him some advice, trying to mostly stick to things that would keep him alive longer, rather than tips to keep his opponent alive shorter.
Night had descended by the end of the third hour, and they wrapped up.
"Thank you, Miss Rebeccah, I'll practice more for next time."
With seemingly boundless energy, he grabbed the wooden practice swords and ran off.
At a slightly more relaxed pace, Rebeccah set off towards the store's front doors, where her scouting partner Alice was waiting.  She and Alice were the only two women in the group, and if she didn't like the woman so much, she may have avoided becoming her partner, since most of the other guys avoided them now, for whatever silly reason.
"Got our route memorized?"
"Sure do, let's go."
The city was quiet, with only the crickets making a rift in the veil of silence.  The streetlights were dark now since The Scream, and the inhabitants fled looking for food, or even just recently scared off by the Answerers. Their route swung them around the City Hall, and then around the highway out of town.  Nothing, and nothing.  "I'm beginning to think they're operating outside city limits," Rebeccah muttered, after their fourth hour of not seeing a soul.
"Nothing about their operation here is characteristic of them, it wouldn't surprise me."
Perfect, Alice had just put into words what Rebeccah had been trying to pin down this past half-week.  The Answerers did not bring task forces of only Magi, only spare them to attack a school, and then sit quietly outside city limits.  As her partner had just put, it was just plain uncharacteristic.
"I say we check out the region outside the city that's closest to that school you found, we can hope that the Answerer's poor patrolling is the only thing they're still doing."
Rebeccah nodded, and they set off.  With their un-natural speed, they'd only be a few hours traveling around the outskirts of the city, but it was safer than traveling through the streets where they risked being seen moving that fast.
Just like magic, Rebeccah thought, grinning.   The camp lay about twenty kilometers outside city limits, dozens of campfires lay out across and around the base of the hill where the camp was located.
"You going in?" Alice asked, his voice below a whisper.
"Yeah, watch for my signals."
One of them had to stay outside the camp, to relay messages back to Derek and the others, even if that message only ended up being the location of the camp and the death of their partner.
Rebeccah made her way down the hill, very slowly, making sure to stay as close to the ground and shrubs as she could.  She'd done this many more times than once, she knew she wouldn't be caught easily, but carelessness would find her nothing but an early grave, she also knew.
She saw the first patrol long before they could have made her out on open ground, carrying torches as they were.  She quietly moved behind some shrubs, and watched them pass.  There were three of them, the flickering torchlight making the hellish eye on their uniforms seem even more menacing.
They didn't see her, of course, and Rebeccah made her way closer to the camp.  The patrols were very thin for such a large camp, even for the Answerers, and Rebeccah soon saw why.  Right in the middle of the large camp, was a pit, and dozens of Answerers were excavating it out.
She was now as close to the ring of campfires as was safe, but she yearned to see more, what were they digging for?
Against her better judgment, she crept forward .  Completely prone now, she crawled towards a patch of bushes that would give her all the view she needed.  The shuffling of feet stopped her, and her head whipped in the direction of the noise, panicked.  Someone was coming closer, someone from the nearest fire, no doubt.  She froze, not wanting movement to alert him, but knowing he'd stumble right across her if he got any closer.  Trapped, she held her breath.
The man ambled closer, slowly, lacking the direction of a patrol.
"Hey! Game's starting! Get your ass over here or we're taking your chips!"
The shout nearly made Rebeccah jump in surprise, before she realized it had originated from the campfire not forty meters downhill.
"Do it and you're dead!" The nearby man shouted back, but turned around and headed back down the hill, not wanting his threat to be more than idle.
Rebeccah started breathing again, relief flooding through her, and continued her crawl, until she reached cover.  From her new vantage point, she looked down over the camp.
The first and only thing she noticed was that the digging had stopped.  They were now packing up whatever it was that they'd dug up, moving it out of the pit.  She still wasn't close enough to see it, and wouldn't dare to try.  Settling herself down, she continued to watch.  They were packing up alright, and it looked like they were getting ready to move, whatever they'd come for, they had it now, which meant it was time to signal Alice.
Cupping her hands, Rebeccah urged four tiny points of fire into them, and let them drift up into the sky, pushing them up far enough to be visible from where Alice would be waiting.  The tiny dots were swallowed up by darkness soon after leaving her hands, but she kept careful control of them.  Finally, when they were high enough, she slowly, with such a fine increase as to strain her concentration, made them brighter.  Finally, four tiny points of light appeared in the sky.  Four extra points, among the spattering of background stars.  The Answerers wouldn't be able to tell those four artificial stars apart from the rest, but Alice would be looking for them, she'd get the message.  The arrangement of her stars, known as a message constellation, told Alice the Answerers were fleeing.  Several times, she dimmed, re-arranged, and re-brightened the stars, to finish her message.
The Answerers are getting ready to leave, get Derek, ambush in the morning.
She waited, and watched the patrols for a while creeping back away, avoiding any mishaps with the kind of vigil that only recent terror could bring.

As it turned out, the ambush in the morning never happened, the Answerers had packed up and left very quickly, and they had to pursue the fleeing convoy until almost noon.
"All four groups are in position Sir, the Answerers are gettingready to leave, we need to strike soon."
"Thank you, David, go to eastern squad, and wait for the signal, we'll begin very soon."
Roger was in charge of the actual ambush, Derek was the squad leader but he was just a normal Magi on the battlefield.
"Ready Beccy?"
Rebeccah rolled her eyes, and didn't answer.
Roger nodded, and walked towards the edge of the rise that they were hiding behind.  His three guardians went ahead of him, the air shimmering in front of them, various magical barriers already erected.
Rebeccah's position was about two dozen meters off to the left, to avoid the damage that would be occurring around Roger's defencive ring as the Answerers tried to topple the enemy Archmage.
The camp below them was bustling, they hadn't noticed the Doves, but they were most certainly getting ready to leave, David hadn't exaggerated.
Rebeccah felt a slight chill as Roger began, sweeping a wave of chill air down toward the camp.  The figures momentarily slowed, and there were a few moments where they were wondering why it was so cold in the heart of summer, before they realized.
Just as the first cries rose, Roger's attack became more violent, the chill condensing segments of water vapour, forming jagged scaffolds of ice that smashed into the nearest Answerer magi, cutting them down.  Many Magi fell to these ghostly projectiles before barriers were erected, and that was Rebeccah's cue.
She swiftly conjured an orb of orange fire, and flung it high above the battlefield, where it burst and fell in a cascade of flames to engulf the unfortunate Mage who hadn't expected fire to fall from the heavens.
The fire blossom was the signal, and the rest of the Doves came out of hiding, and crackling bolts of electricity immediately darted into the middle of the chaotic camp, their fierce brightness making Rebeccah blink away at least a dozen afterimages.  Here too, Roger was at work, creating funnels of chilled air for the lightning to travel through, delivering the normally inaccurate electrical attacks directly to their targets.
The ferocity of the Doves' initial attack nearly broke the Answerer's resolve right there, but a ring of fire ignited around their camp, rising up to form a gigantic protective dome.
Rebeccah took a few steps back as the wave of stifling heat washed over her.
"They have an Archmage!" Roger shouted, as if Rebeccah couldn't tell.
The Lightning attacks on the Answerers immediately stopped, their Magi were trained enough to know what was effective and what wasn't.  The lightning may have stopped, but the assault did not, the Doves quickly replaced their electrical attacks with pyrotechnical ones, sending small bolts of fire blindly down through the dome.
Roger was busy too, as four spheres of pale green light mysteriously appeared above the dome, and smashed into it.  The dome flickered, but held, but the spheres themselves did not vanish, they spread out and covered the dome as if they had been made out of some strange viscous liquid.  Once the dome was covered in the strange light, it began to compress, as if the dome was trying to crush them in their own shield.  Which, was probably exactly what Roger was trying to do.
The Doves ceased their attack as the two Archmages battled, as did the occasional bolt of fire from the Answerer's own Magi, very few of which had even reached the Doves' lines anyway.
Eventually the ring stopped compressing, the ring of blackened earth around it now at least five meters deep.
With a tremendous roar that made Rebeccah jump in shock, the green dome burst near the bottom, as if it had been pricked with a pin.  The fiery dome exploded through the hole in the dome, the pressure far too much for it to maintain its shape.
With their barrier down, the Doves immediately resumed their attack, but the Answerers most certainly did not have much fight left in them left, as the projectiles being flung back towards the Doves were more than a little rare, now.
Naught but a cloud of smoke could be seen, the hungry flames burning away most everything and leaving a thick black haze in their wake.
As a last defiant move, one lone bolt of fire streaked high through the veil, aimed directly at Roger and his guardians.
Rebeccah didn't even watch the attack fly, she could block it herself, and Roger had three magi guarding him.  So she was completely surprised when he heard a hoarse cry coming from Roger's direction, and in his voice.  She whipped around, and saw him on the ground, one of his guardians was kneeled beside him.  Just below the left side of his collarbone, was embedded an arrow.
"What happened?" She was over to his side in a single bound, it seemed.
Roger laughed, or tried to, it was lost in the cough.  "Thought it was a fire bolt, not an imbued arrow, told them to put up a magic guard.  Peeled the flames off the thing, didn't do a damn thing to slow it down though."
She shook her head, amazed he could be laughing after being shot.  "Will you be okay?"
"Yeah, don't worry, I'll be alright, it missed my lung, I think."
Rebeccah stood up, and looked through the shimmering barrier that Roger's guardians still held up.  The smoke was drifting away, aided by a magically induced wind, and showing that not a single Answerer still stood, and few were even recognizable.
"Did we get them?" Roger asked, his eyes closed now.
"Yeah, you got them."
Seeds of Chaos, chapter 1, first draft.

all other chapters are in the scrapbook, up to chapter 13
Spook327 Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006
It is really hard for me to properly critique literature, mostly because I don't really know what I'm talking about.

I think you might want to take some time to explain the terminology that you use, espicially in the early parts of this novel, mostly because you might confuse somebody just picking up the book for the first time. Also, it seems like this chapter races through a lot of things in a couple thousand words.

Other than those two points, I do like the concept behind the story as you've told it to me over MSN, and I'm anxious to see what you do with the setting. Keep up the good work!
Aeroil-Taelroca Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2006   Photographer
Terminology? haha, you know what Dusks are, and I think I'm not making a huge conspiracy to hide it, most readers can puzzle it out, and I'm gonna outright say in a few chapters anyway.
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