Sorry for the wall of text here. I was experimenting with some writing for a change. I had been working on some Illustrations to go with this but they weren't really coming together. This is just some ideas I've had floating around in my head for a bit. I think it's ok. The ending seems a bit abrupt to me, but try to read it and leave a comment. Thanks.
The magical island civilisation of Ulterion was hidden from the rest of the world. Ever since the Emperor had died heirless centuries ago and the five Houses had become paranoid, bickering nations each claiming the throne was theirs. Since then, students wishing to finish their studies at the Academy and become full fledged mages and order members were required to undertake a pilgrimage into the world and bring back something of value. Be it a weapon, a tool, a magical artifact, a book or merely just some tidbit of knowledge and information or news. Whilst powerful mages could cast spells to observe the other nations, the pilgrimage remained the Ulterion's primary method of obtaining information about the outside world, and to aid their own nation's progress.
Enrik had always thought that the Industrial nation of Rubat was of great personal interest and he had headed straight for it. The one facet of Rubatian society that fascinated the trainee mage the most was how magic was no longer practiced here. In fact many of their citizens held the 'realistic' view that magic was no more than a child's fantasy, and that the other nations' use of it was mere rumour and hear say.
He had found this startling back home in Ulterion but when he was finally in Rubat's port capital of Ilstry he could see why. The city was bleak. The streets were narrow with buildings leaning, nay, imposing over head. Smoke billowing out in such volume as to hide the very sun from the land. There was no magic here.
Finally here though, he knew he had no time to sight see and learn all of Ilstry's mysteries for he only needed to know one, and bring it back before one of his classmates had. Officially it made little difference who did make it back first, but to return much later than someone else who had offered the same gift as you was considered shameful.
So he set to work thinking of something he could grab and bring back. Something easy, yet also unobvious. Glancing at the nearby taverns he briefly considered a keg of Rubatian brew. Too crude he thought. Also, Rubatian ale (which he had had the dubious honour of sampling in Rubatian border towns) had a rough aftertaste not to his sophisticated tongue. The gift was sub-par.
Looking at Ilstry's cloudy skyline, he considered infiltrating the buildings that poured the dense smoke from their vertical tunnels.
Lost in his train of thought he hadn't spotted the guards walking up behind.
"Oy, lady boy, shove off, you're blocking the streets." The traditional grey initiate's robes had caught their attention. It was exoctic to them. Different. Didn't come in about fifty pieces and assembled on a person one at a time like Rubatian dress.
Enrik cursed himself, he should have seen this coming and prepared for it, but did as they said whilst apologising to the best of his diplomatic ability. "I am sorry sire. I was not looking where I was going."
"Too damn right you weren't" sputtered the one at the back pointing a wooden staff laced with metal in his direction whilst the other grabbed the one strapped to his shoulder. 'Wait' Enrik thought, why are the Rubatian guards carrying staffs?
"Excuse my curiosity sires, but where did you acquire that staff?"
"Staff?" laughed the front man. "This looney's just wandered out of medieval times this one." A few people passing that were watching this altercation laughed at that.
"I did not mean offence. I was intrigued is all"
"Fucking talks like it an' all" derided the back guard to howls of laughter. Enrik could tell this wasn't going well.
"Look, I was just wondering what the staffs were like. I have never seen any of it's design or operation."
"Never seen a gun?" patronised the front guard, pointing a hollow end at Enrik's shoulder. "Where the hell have you been hiding then?"
"I think he wants to see it's operation, guv." encouraged the other.
"Too right he does" and with an evil grin on his face, the first guard activated it. Fire poured out and landed in Enrik's shoulder, shooting pain all through his body. Blood dropped down his robes and onto the cobbles around his feet.
The mage was surprised. Not by the pain. He'd get over that in no time at all, but by what had happened. A magical device that required no magical knowledge to operate! Even better. A magical device he knew nothing about.
He had found his gift.