18 - The Mantle of Power

When a street urchin stumbles upon a wizard's mantle of unparalleled power, she uses it to force her way to the top of the social ladder. But when dozens of power-hungry sorcerers come seeking the mantle, she has to fight to keep it - and try not to destroy the city in the process.

Mina is a street urchin in a big fantasy port. Ogres and trolls help load ships captained by dwarves, and merfolk trade with land-dwellers in the bay. Minor magical talents put on light shows and perform illusions, and elven smiths peddle magically hardened steel.

Mina survives by stealing from most of them; begging is a loser’s game.

That’s not to say she doesn’t get charity, though; she’s tight with Portia, a widowed merchant, who tries to feed Mina when she can. And it’s not to say she doesn’t give charity; there’s a younger urchin, Lem, that she shares pools her earnings with.

Mina’s not exactly a loner, but she doesn’t run with any gangs, either. If you’re in a gang, you have backup, but you have to back them up too - and they make stupid decisions. Mostly it’s just her and Lem if either of them need backup.

Still, the older she gets, the less people look the other way when she steals stuff; she knows she’s going to have to join a gang soon.

There’s a shipwreck right near the port. Mina dives right in to help, and saves an old man’s life, among others. Portia and Lem help drag survivors onto the shore.

Once most everyone has been taken care of, the old man that Mina save is still unclaimed and unconscious (but alive). He’s in bad condition, and doesn’t seem to know anybody in the town. So, Mina, Lem, and Portia take care of him as best they can. Mina doesn’t like having an extra, useless mouth to feed, but Portia insists, and Mina doesn’t resist.

The old man never becomes fully lucid, but he wakes up on occasion and looks around. Mina tries to get him to talk to her, but he seems content to only watch and listen.

Despite their care, the man’s condition worsens steadily, until, eventually, he dies.

Elsewhere, in some different dimension, a powerful spirit hears something in the wind.

While Mina and her friends are honorable enough to care for a dying man, life on the streets has taught them that once someone is dead, they don’t need any of their old things. So they divvy up his few possessions.

Mina’s clothes are torn and ragged, and the man had a slight enough build that his coat is only a little too big for her, so she takes it. But upon putting it on, she becomes overwhelmed with magical power. Lighting shoots from her fingertips, and gouts of fire leap from her mouth. Lem and Portia barely get away before Mina burns the entire house down. Luckily, their home is a small stall tucked in a corner of the city wall, and is thus the only thing nearby capable of burning.

Mina stumbles from the ashes, completely unharmed. She tells Portia and Lem that she’s going to throw the coat into the ocean, and Lem, still rattled, agrees fervently.

Portia, though, says that they should keep it; a relic of that much magical power could come in handy, or at least sell for a lot of money to the right person. They wander out into the woods so Mina can try putting it on again without burning anything down; she manages to get the magic under control this time, and soon, she’s using the coat’s power to start fires at night to keep them warm. And she figures out it can do other things, too, like levitate objects, or create a ghostly fog.

Mina starts doing street performances to get money, and it doesn’t take long before she’s making enough for her, Lem, and Portia to live indoors again.

In he different dimension, the spirit attends a massive event akin to some sort of funeral service.

Meanwhile, Mina’s getting more used to the power the robe gives her. She practices regularly, alone, out in the woods, creating fairy lights and making campfires dance.

Rumors start circulating that a powerful wizard was on the boat that wrecked. Anyone who knew Mina before starts speculating about her new robe.

Portia advises caution - and maybe for them to leave. Lem encourages soaking up the glory while they can. Mina sides with Lem and admits it publicly, and demonstrates how much power she has under her control.

That makes her a target for all the gangs in town and all those who crave power from around.

She has to fight off a few attacks - including one attack by a mildly powerful sorcerer. She has enough control of her power to fight them all off, though the sorcerer does give her a run for her money.

She meets with the Mayor, who’s worried that she’ll bring conflict into his town. She accepts some responsibilities in keeping the peace and protecting the town in exchange for a home and acceptance. The Mayor prepares a room for her in his own modest mansion, and she, Portia, and Lem live well.

In the different dimension, the spirit leaves on a journey.

A powerful wizard named Thazzad, who claims to be the dead old man’s son, visits the city with an entourage, to meet with Mina. He thanks her for caring for his father in his final moments, then asks for his father’s power, as it is his birthright. Mina refuses.

He warns that he is capable of taking it, but she says she has no way of knowing that this guy is who he says he is, and she’s not going to give the power up. He warns her that she’ll regret it, and leaves.

The head of one of the bigger gangs in town, Squint, comes to Mina and offers an alliance. If she protects and establishes his gang, they’ll be able to get her all the information she could ever need to make sure she stays on top. She refuses; she’s more of a justice of the peace now, and if she sees him again, she’ll kill him.

Life is good for a while.

Thazzad doesn’t beat around the bush. He announces his return by destroying Mina’s new home. He then blows a massive hole in the city wall, which is then flooded with magically augmented bandits and raiders.

Mina fights back, leading the defense. The fight is tough, and she’s clearly losing.

Then, Thazzad comes out and announces that the sole purpose of the attack is for him to reclaim the power that is rightfully his. As soon as it is returned to him, the attack will end. He’ll even repair the city wall.

Mina refuses, and the people turn against her. Portia holds them off, giving Mina and Lem time to flee.

Mina and Lem hide in the sewers under the city. They follow Portia underground, and see the city turn her in to Thazzad to use as bait. Thazzad shouts to Mina, wherever she is, that if he doesn’t have his father’s power by sunrise, Portia will die.

When Mina turns around, Lem is gone. In his place is a note telling her where to find him - with Squint.

Before Mina even has a chance to react, the spirit from the other dimension finds her. When she freaks out, he assures her that he’s not there for violence, and has nothing to do with Thazzad. He’s only here to reclaim the power that he lent to the old man. He explains magic and the source of magic to Mina - spirits lend their power to mortals in bargains.

Now that the old man is dead, the spirit is here to reclaim his power. Mina breaks down. She needs the power to save Lem and to trade for Portia. The spirit listens to her story. He agrees to let her hold on to the power… until sunrise. But after that, he’s taking what he came for.

Mina runs to Squint’s gang’s hideout. She fights Squint and wipes out half his gang to save Lem.

Once Lem is safe, Mina goes back to the surface, to Thazzad, and trades the mantle for Portia. Thazzad sucks the power out of the robe, combining it with his own power.

Now that he has what he wants, Thazzad attacks Mina. Portia throws herself in the way, and she dies instead.

Before Thazzad can attack Mina again, it’s sunrise. The spirit shows up and takes the mantle of power, which, because it’s been combined with Thazzad’s power, leaves him completely powerless. Mina attacks him with her bare hands, and, because he’s so used to relying completely on magic, she overwhelms him and beats the tar out of him.

When his army of bandits sees him getting beaten by a little girl, they run away. As soon as he pries Mina off of himself, he runs, too.

Mina and Lem are no longer welcome in the city, but the people realize they’re to blame for Portia’s death, and that Thazzad was lying and just an awful guy, so they don’t, crucify them. Mina and Lem are given supplies and a posting on a ship, and they sail off to go on adventures anywhere else.