Talhia laughed, as Serena turned and twirled in front of the mirror admiring the dress. The gowns their father brought back for his daughters were the latest fashion from La Serenissima. Knowing how ridiculously the merchants from the Republic charged for their clothes, it must have been a particularly lucrative season, although Talhia knew every season was good for the Ferrantis. After all, they held what amounted to a monopoly over the trade of silks and rare spices from the West. No, their father brought the dresses for Serena’s wedding to show allies and enemies alike that the Ferrantis remained wealthier than many. The marriage merely strengthened their family’s power. Serena knew it and didn’t care: the groom was rich, handsome and she would continue living the privileged life she and her sisters had known all their lives.
Talhia was well aware their wealth, success and power must discomfit their competitors. In fact, it was the reasoning behind their father’s choice of Serena’s groom. They couldn’t afford the Cavallaros to align themselves with the Giorginis or the Lanzis. These ties would increase the Ferrantis’ prominence within the Council. And with Alessandro proving as savy and acute as their father, Talhia had no doubt her brother would one day lead the Council and be one of the most powerful men in the Kingdom. That – of course – caused conflict.
Though the Stefanellis were ruined and exiled, they ensured Matteo Ferranti be well aware his son’s death would mean the end of his line. His daughters could marry well but the name Ferranti and all its prestige might still die.
Talhia’s mission would be that it didn’t. She was about to be introduced as Master in the Wizard guild. Nobody knew but her father. Talhia might see her sisters married where she wouldn’t be, yet she would hold power in her own name, independent from her father – somewhat – and from a husband – definitely.
When their brother knocked at the door to get them to the temple, Serena laughed some more. Alessandro smiled indulgently. For all that he was cunning in business, he was a kind young man. And her father had been clear: he was the future of the Ferrantis. She knew what was expected of her.
“You’re so serious Alessandro.” Serena teased.
“Well you’re getting married to an important man Serena.”
“Alessandro. We all know we are the ones bestowing the honour, not the other way around.”
Talhia laughed: count on her sister to remind everyone of the Ferranti’s pride.
“Don’t say so to your new husband Serena.”
“Nonsense Talhia. Giacomo knows it. That is why he accepted despite my dreadful reputation.”
They all laughed and left.
At the temple their father and Arianna waited. Here were the last of House Ferranti, representatives of its pride intelligence and power. Despite their cousins’ presence, the five of them held the future of House Ferranti.
While kissed Serena, Talhia entered a step ahead of her brother. And felt the brush of something… Magic. It passed over her but it was… No! Not here. The onslaught took her by surprise: it was so violent it caught her breath. Instinctively she raised her hands towards Alessandro: his life to protect no matter what. But she reached towards Serena, Arianna and her father. She wasn’t sure it was enough though.
Magic lashed at her, people in the temple hurried outside, screaming and kicking, trampling whoever fell in their way. While she tried to contain the power thrown at her, Talhia kept the shield around Alessandro as deep as she could. It was brutal, there were at least two magicians and before long, she stepped back. She fell beside her brother.
“It’s the Magia.” He whispered.
“How long Talhia?”
She didn’t answer: focus was needed. For a long time she deflected spells. The smell of fire and blood surrounded her. And then it was over. Alessandro was safe.
It was he who whimpered and reminded her that there were others whom she loved. She turned. She bit her lips till they bled. In a heap of clothing and blood lay her father and Arianna. She stumbled towards them… She could see the results of the magical spells used against them. She cried. Serena? Serena? She looked about when another scream ran.
She spun: holding their brother by the hair, Serena had a knife at his neck.
“Well isn’t that a surprise? A wizard Talhia?” Everything fell apart around her. A lie. Serena… Why would Serena do that? “How long have you kept that secret?”
“And you?” She spat.
Serena’s wrist moved and Talhia didn’t think. Alessandro’s life, the only one that mattered. Magic poured out of her and hit her sister who crumbled beside Alessandro. She ran to him. He was safe. But he looked shell-shocked.
“What have you done?”
She didn’t know whether he spoke to her or Serena. It didn’t matter. She stayed with him until the healers arrived. Then came the Grand Master of the wizard guild… They felt the powers at play. But didn’t intervene.
“I see Matteo didn’t lie about your power: but your induction can’t wait.”
“What are the Magia?” She was rude but she didn’t care.
The Grand Master sniffed contemptuously.
“Criminals. Mercenaries. They sell their power. We’ve been trying to eradicate their organization for decades. In vain. They’re like a hydra. You cut a head, another one sprouts elsewhere.”
“Induct me, teach me and I’ll help you destroy them.”
He observed her: whether he thought it was a desire for revenge, the Ferrantis pride or a genuine want to rid the world of a criminal organization, she’d never know. Nor did she care. What she wanted was finding out why her sister betrayed them, kill all who contributed to destroying her family. Alessandro must marry and have children. She’d have to organize that: her brother didn’t appear capable of doing this just now. Like it or not, she must lead the Ferrantis.
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s writing prompt The Tower
And part of the Flash fiction month challenge from Deviant Art: conflict.