Friday, January 30, 2015

The Village

Dragoneyes and I were going to embark upon a journey. That was decided. Now, we had to handle all the tedious details of travel. For instance, I didn't actually own any horses.
"Why don't we just use a transportation spell," Dragoneyes whined.
"What happened the last time you used one?"
"It worked perfectly. Except I ended up underground."
"I have only attempted such a spell once. It was very fortunate that I had power over the winds. And that the Forest of Irium is uninhabited."
"That was you? All those reports about giants encroaching further south, and it was really just Amniel of the White Tower?"
"It was." We shared a brief laugh. So many of the stranger things in the world are the result of sorcerers making a mistake.
"So a transportation spell is out. I don't suppose you could summon up a whirlwind and carry us to the University."
I sighed. "I'm afraid not. And it wouldn't be that much faster than horseback anyways."
"Very well. We will go on horseback. Under one condition. I pick out the horses."
"Because if I know you, which I do, you'll try to bargain for horses using knowledge you picked up in a book written a century ago. Which is approximately the time you last rode a horse."
"This will be your first time out in public."
Dragoneyes flashed his most charming smile. "I think I can handle myself."
"I'm not worried about your social skills. I'm worried about the fact that you have glowing eyes that shift from red to orange to yellow depending on your mood."
"I sure do."
"Aren't you worried that you might be a bit conspicuous?"
"Amniel, it took an incredible amount of luck and cunning for me to get these eyes. Are you seriously saying that I need to conceal them?"
"Well, I agree with you. But I'm not happy about it."
"So you'll get the horses. I'll go to the library and pack every map I can find. We can leave by noon."

Dragoneyes ambled along, in a path between two fields. In the distance, he saw a falcon. And then, he knew the history of that falcon. It had been born in the far North, and was engaging in its yearly migration. It had a mate and... two children. Dragoneyes also got a decent idea of what it was like to be a falcon.
Interesting... his Sight was getting better. The sorcerer tried his luck divining the history of a tree... no success. A blade of grass... he got the impression of a lot of dew, and some cows. A fly... nothing.
He heard rustling behind him. What was that? Dragoneyes prepared to battle, summoning a flame in his right hand, and creating an iron sword in the other. He looked around. His powers allowed him to discern a path of trampled wheat. At the end of that path was... Cassinder.
"What are you doing there?"
"I followed a dragonfly."
"That is a perfectly legitimate explanation for why you are standing in a field ten minutes walk from your house. I assume Amniel has no idea you're here."
"I needed to tell the dragonfly something."
"Hold on. Am I the dragonfly?"
Cassinder laughed. "I wanted to tell the dragonfly to get a third horse."
"Sounds like I'm the dragonfly. Otherwise, that advice would almost certainly go unheeded. Why do I need a third horse? Is one of the horses going to die?"
Cassinder decided that the conversation was over, and began making her way back to the White Tower. "There is something unusual about that girl," Dragoneyes said to himself. "It's almost as if she is a mentally unstable sorceress who can see the future."

Dragoneyes made his way to the local stablehouse. He looked over the horses. Immediately, he saw which ones were strong, which were weak. Which were calm, which were ill-tempered. "I'll take that one and that one," he said. He considered Cassinder's advice. The world was dangerous. Especially for sorcerers.  Most of all for the animals standing near sorcerers. There was a good chance a horse would die on the way there. Best buy another one. "And that one. How much?"
"For the lot of 'em? Five gold, two silver."
Dragoneyes didn't know the True Name of silver. "How about six gold?"
The stablehand looked surprised. He had spent plenty of time haggling with customers, but this one seemed to have a fundamental misapprehension as to how bargaining worked. "Six gold? I don't see why not?"
The True Name of gold was still new to Dragoneyes. It was still difficult to recall. The mage filled his mind with thoughts of the yellow metal. He recalled his deep and profound understanding of its material properties. And there it was, on the edge of his consciousness. The True Name of gold. Six large coins materialized in his hand. "Here you go."
"Was that magic?"
"You from the White Tower?"
"No, but I've spent time there."
"You met Amniel?"
"Is he as as powerful as they say?"
"I don't know what they say, but probably not."
"He ever kill anyone by magic?"
"I seriously doubt it."
"You ever kill anyone by magic?"
"None of your business."
The vendor eyed Dragoneyes suspiciously. "Is this gold going to disappear?"
"Not unless you keep bothering me."

Dragoneyes looked at the sky. He saw the paths the sun would take for the next ten thousand years. He also saw that he still had two hours before Amniel expected him back.
He needed to practice his Names. It had taken him seconds to remember the True Name of gold. In battle, that would be unacceptable. And the penalty would be death.
Dragoneyes looked at the town, and determined which house contained a blacksmith. "I will give you four gold coins for use of your forge."
"You that sorcerer? Amniel?"
"Amniel is short and bookish. I am a tall, dark foreigner. But I am a sorcerer."
"What does a sorcerer know of ironworking."
Dragoneyes strained himself. The True Name of iron took form in his mind. "Don't worry. I know everything there is to know about iron."
The smith left. Dragoneyes scanned the room. He invoked the True Name of fire, that power which was old and familiar to him. The forge grew hot. Dragoneyes knew everything about iron, and he knew how long it would take to melt. Too long. He invoked the True Name of iron, and it melted.
He shaped it into a sword. He invoked the True Name of water, and quenched the blade. It cooled perfectly. Dragoneyes knew that it would.
Another sword. This one quenched in ice.
A third. Dragoneyes created his own iron this time. It was purer that way. And he decided to go for a slower quench.
The fire was dying down. Not that Dragoneyes was using it, but this was an exercise in magery, so he called upon the True Name of Wood. He repeated the process. More swords.
After an hour of this, he looked at the pile of swords he had made. Enough for a small army. He didn't have a small army. So, with a thought, he consigned the blades to oblivion.

"What prompted you to buy three horses," I asked.
Dragoneyes brushed me off. "A little birdie told me." Was it Cassinder? My mother? Did his own eyes somehow allow him to see into the future?
"Well, Cassinder is coming with us. My mother insists. Apparently, Cassinder is growing too powerful to remain untrained. My mother, expert in sorcery that she is, deems it necessary that she refine her powers at the University."
"I take it you disagree."
"I do. Koteph will find out about what we are doing, and this could be a dangerous journey. And, while I love Cassinder, she will absolutely be a liability."
"She was the little birdie. I saw her out in he fields."
"My tracking spells didn't show her leaving the Tower."
"My eyes can pierce all modes of illusion. Well, if there is a mode that can't be pierced, I don't know about it." A pause. "Your mother doesn't know anything about sorcery. You know more than anyone I know. Don't let her make this decision."
I muttered something. The plain truth of the matter was that I knew my mother, and she was much more stubborn than me. This wasn't a fight worth having.
Dragoneyes, with all his powers of observation, sensed this. "So, we'll fetch our things, fetch Cassinder, and be off?"
"If by our things, you are referring to my things, and the things that are mine that I'm lending to you, then yes."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Black Tower

Ownership of the Black Tower passes from person to person. Sometimes, the master was a disgruntled sorcerer there to inflict vengeance upon his former enemies. Sometimes, the master was a mage who wanted nothing but a life of solitude, slaying any who came too close, Once, a dynasty of sorcerers had taken it as their home, making it the seat of their empire for the better part of a century. Until three days ago, the Lord of the Black Tower had been Phorius Caesorium, a mage who had used his tower as a laboratory, conducting horrifying experiments on all manner of beast, trying to gain power over them.
Phorius' son, Dranarius, sat in his cell. The cells on either side of his contained mother and father. Dran occupied himself by chipping away at the spells that made his prison impregnable. He wished he could make a potion. Channeling the ambient energies of the things around him, that was his kind of sorcery. Not worrying away at charms older than most civilizations.
The cells weren't part of the original tower. They had been added by Marius the Mad eight hundred years previously. Every occupant of the tower had added his own improvement. Dran recognized some of his own father's handiwork holding him prisoner.
Dran heard someone approaching. He strained his ears. It didn't sound like a human. The being unlocked Dran's cell. It looked vaguely like a man. Pale, and far too thin, but it was clearly modeled on the human form. It wore armor. Dran was no expert, but it looked shoddily made.  "Come out," it rasped. Dran saw several more of the creatures, holding his mother hostage. They carried badly made swords and spears. Dran watched silently as another of the almost-men released his father. Phorius noticed the icy dagger in his son's hand. "Put that away," he hissed. "There's no use killing these pawns. We need to confront Koteph."
"We should kill them now and make a break for it."
"And then what? We have no allies. We are better off standing our ground here."
"Come with us," the soldiers said.
The three captives were escorted through what was once their home. They passed Phorius' prized library. They passed the desecrated corpses of the monstrosities Phorius had studied. And they passed vats and vats filled with an off-white sludge. Finally, they entered the great hall, in the original Tower.

Koteph had only just taken up residency in the Black Tower, but he had already had time to redecorate. Gone were Phorius' immaculately preserved animal organs. Gone were the swords and shields of warriors Phorius had killed. Dran suspected that those weapons were in the hands of Koteph's pet soldiers.
The shade sat on the black throne. The throne was as old as the tower, making it older than recorded history. Its occupant rose. He had dark skin and bright eyes. He looked out of place amid his pale bodyguards.
"Do you like them," Koteph asked. "My palemen. Hastily done, I admit. And you can tell by looking that I was going for quantity, not quality. Quality soldiers will come later."
"They are repulsive," Phorius spat. "They take after their maker." Even after being beaten and locked in one of his own cells, Phorius was still unfazed by the enemy before him. It was not in his nature to be fazed.
He was the younger son of the Etoran Emperor. He had been tutored by some of the greatest sorcerers of his day. When a magical accident resulted in the destruction of Old Etor, Phorius had fought in the resulting Wars of Reunification. After the wars had been won, Phorius and his fellow sorcerers were given a choice: leave the Empire or die. Phorius chose the first option. He had been eighteen at the time.
Phorius had spent some time at the University, but found the sorcerers there to be dull compared to the thrill of battle.
So Phorius began a career slaying monsters. He tore through the ancient terrors, and their more recent offspring. When there were no monsters about, he contented himself with slaying humans. He left corpses everywhere from battlefields to taverns. Eventually, he made a corpse of Toroshash, Lord of the Black Tower, and fell in love with Toroshash's daughter, Mauria. That's when he decided to settle for a quiet life of desecrating corpses and childrearing.
Now, fifty years after he had first struck out on his own, some young Shade thought he was a match for Phorius Terrorslayer?

"I know the True Names of stone and lightning. That is very fortunate. It means that in order to open the five doors and free Ochekol'kan, I only need three other Names. Until recently, I had thought my ally, Bashra Dragoneyes, would supply the Names of water, fire, and ice. But that is beginning to seem unlikely." Inwardly, Koteph cursed himself for allowing Dragoneyes to escape. He should have known the mage was growing too powerful, seeing too clearly the blackness within the shade's heart. He should have known that the man who picked a fight with a dragon could not be kept cowering forever. Dragoneyes had grown tired of Koteph's threats. The ground had opened up, swallowing Dragoneyes, two giants, and a dozen palemen. The giants and palemen and turned up dead. Dragoneyes hadn't.
Koteph returned to reality. "The three of you are all mages. You all know the True Name of ice. That is completely useless to me. So, I will use this as an opportunity for some practice. I invite the three of you to try to destroy me. Please, try your hardest. Perhaps I will actually be challenged."
Phorius' heart stopped. Until then he had been biding his time, waiting to attack. Now, all hope was gone. It is a well-known fact that when an evil sorcerer challenges you to a fair fight, it is only because he is overwhelmingly more powerful.
Dranarius didn't wait for Koteph to strike first. With a word, crystals of ice began to form. Frozen shards flew towards the shade. With a sorcerous thought, the icy daggers vanished. "Taking the initiative, I see. How nice."
Koteph stood up, electricity crackling around him. A bolt of lightning issued forth from his hand, arcing towards Mauria. For a second, the electricity circled around her, held back by enchantments to ward of lighting. Then, the enchantments died. An instant later, so did Mauria.
Phorius lashed out. He screamed the True Name of ice. The palemen felt their water blood freeze in their veins. Then, an army of frozen statues began to advance upon the shade. "Wow," Koteph said. "Impressive. You won't be able to keep it up for long. Then again, you wouldn't have the chance." Koteph twisted one of his enchantments, and the icy soldiers crumbled to the ground.
Even before the icy mist had settled, Dran was upon Koteph. A sword of pure ice in one hand, he pressed against Koteph's protective wards. Phorius joined in. Slowly, Koteph's hours of sorcery gave way. The blade ran through Koteph's heart. Koteph laughed, and pulled it out. The sword shattered as it hit the floor.

Phorius was terrified. They weren't facing a mortal sorcerer. They were fighting a mass of spirits stuffed- barely- into a man's body. Could he even die anymore? "Please," Phorius begged, "have mercy. We could be of use to you."
"Perhaps. That was an impressive tour de force."
"No," Dran spat. "He killed my mother."
"I'll kill you too if you don't come up with a compelling reason not to."
"Dragoneyes. We can capture him for you."
"No. You can't. And I wouldn't want you to. At this point, I'd prefer him dead to alive."
"We can do that too. My son, his potions are amazing. We can track him down, and kill him before he ever has a chance to call upon his True Names."
"You raise an excellent point. I now have use for your son. What use do I have for you?"
"Killing Dragoneyes is a two-man job."
"No, it's not. Goodbye." Dran screamed as the charred corpse of his father fell to the ground. "Now, Dranarius, is it? You're going to get acquainted with some of my friends from the Spirit World."

A day later, the shade Dranarius strode forth from the Black Tower. The human component was furious, resisting Koteph's will with all his might. But the spirit was too powerful. With Koteph's help, it had assumed full control. And if the spirit fulfilled its mission, Koteph would help it stay in control. Forever.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

War Council

Aria, Lady of the White Tower, wasn't a sorceress. She wasn't a noble. She was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. My father had actually caused quite a stir when he married her. People had thought he had tainted the family's magical bloodlines, and brought ruin to the House of the White Tower. The worriers didn't stop my dad, and they didn't stop my mom either. She went on to have two of the most powerful children ever born to the House.
After my father's death, she had taken over our lands. She had proven adept at managing our farms (what a surprise, from a farmer's daughter), and our little patch of the world had prospered under her. She was confident, and supportive. Which is why my first reaction upon hearing about the rise of an all-powerful evil shade was to talk things over with her.
"So, explain what makes Dragoneyes and Koteph so special."
Explaining magic to laymen is one of the great joys in life. There are so many fascinating details. But I had a feeling my mother wanted me to be brief. "There are two main branches of magic. There are sorcerers, people like Allos. Sorcery is often a pain, but with enough work and preparation, you can do lots of things. You can enchant objects to come together after they are smashed. You can cast levitation charms to move stacks of hay. I once set someone's shirt on fire."
"And the other branch?"
"Some sorcerers, after enough effort, become mages. Mages know True Names of things, which gives them incredible power." There are actually cases of non-sorcerers become mages, but those are very rare. "I know one True Name. I spent months listening to the sound of the wind as it rustled through leaves. I dropped myself from great heights, and felt the air rush past me." And four of the five times, my levitating charm stopped me from hitting the ground. "In this manner, I have come to understand the true nature of air. And I have gained power over it. With more work, I might gain an even stronger understanding of the nature of air, and my power would increase. A few people have expended a tremendous amount of time to learn two True Names. The Archmage, at the University knows clay and stone."
"Okay. And mage powers are much stronger than plain old sorcerer powers?"
"Absolutely. If a dozen sorcerers spent a month enchanting the air out of this room, I could undo their work in a few minutes."
"And Dragoneyes knows several names."
"Yes. He knows more True Names than any other person, making his magic more versatile than any other mage's. He also knows the Names more deeply than most mages, giving him several times the raw power of an ordinary mage."
"So he is the most powerful man in the world."
"No. The most powerful man in the world is the one who killed your husband."
"And you say he wants to become even more powerful."
"Yes. His sorcerous abilities have already been raised to incredible levels. And he is likely summoning more spirits every day. But it is important to remember the terrible cost he is paying. A shade is an unnatural union between man and spirit. Prone to insanity. Before Dragoneyes escaped his clutches, Koteph was gathering allies. Breaking bread with the monsters of the world. We think he may be planning to release Ochekol'kan."
"Wait? Is Ochekol'kan real?" My mother placed the emphasis on the second and fourth syllables. Other legends place it on the first and third. Different scholars have different opinions on this. "I'm not trying to be rude," my mother said, "but I thought Ochekol'kan was a story to scare children. Like Eye-Eaters and the Winged Ones."
"The Eye-Eaters are real too. The Winged Ones likely went extinct a few hundred years ago. But Ochekol'kan is worse than any of them. She leaves hordes of monsters with every step. Her breath is a hurricane of poison and her tentacles are great rivers of spines. We really, really, don't want her to escape."

Dragoneyes pushed Allos away. "I can walk without your help."
"You are probably right. But wouldn't it be embarrassing if you fell down the stairs because you refused my offer?"
"If that happens, you have my full permission to laugh every time you see me."
Dragoneyes stumbled a few times, but he managed to get up three flights of stairs without major incident. "Excellent. At last, we meet in the council chamber."
Council chamber. How like him to say that. "This isn't the council chamber. It's my study. You just insisted that we meet here so that you could show off your stair-climbing abilities."
"You're the one who has to consult with his mother in order to decide that the return of the Mother of all Monsters might spell trouble."
"Whatever. It is time to get down to business."
"Shouldn't we have Cassinder here before we conduct business?"
"Because of her powers. They don't really work on demand."
"She sees more than you suspect."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"I, too, see more than you suspect."
Just like that, Cassinder walked in, as if she had known we were talking about her. Actually, she probably did.
"So," I said. "Ochekol'kan."
"She of Ten Thousand Eyes. The Devourer of all Things. The Mother of the Monsters." Dragoneyes rattled off a list of names.
"She was one of the Shapers of the World. Long before the development of written language, she was imprisoned beneath the Green Tower."
"Yeah," Dragoneyes said. "One time when I was sneaking around their cellars, I saw this gigantic green door. The first of the five. The lock had all sorts of carvings in it."
"Do we know where the key is," Allos asked.
Dragoneyes snorted. "Nice one."
"The lock has no keyhole," I explained. I had read all about this door in books. Plenty of scholars at the University had studied it. Some had even had the nerve to touch it. "Most of the people who have studied it agree that it can only be opened if commanded to in the True Speech."
"Which would be very hard for Koteph to do, since the only words he knows are lightning and stone."
Time for another Amniel-style lecture. "Maybe if you'd actually shown up to Master Arnarian's history class, you would know this. Stone is the word to open that door. It has actually been opened several times. The door after is made of water. It has been opened once. Behind it was a door of fire. Legends says that behind that are doors of air and lightning. So Koteph already has two of the doors in his pocket."
"Sounds like you two should head off and warn the University," Allos suggested. "Tell them to keep a lookout for suspicious behavior."
Dragoneyes sneered, his yellow eyes flashing. "That would accomplish nothing. At any given time, the University has maybe three hundred sorcerers of varying levels. There is suspicious behavior going on every hour of every day. Now, if we warned the three hundred sorcerers to begin preparing for a full-scale invasion, and to start sealing off access to Ochekol'kan's prison behind several layers of defenses, that might be a good start."
"A good start," I said, "but we would do more. We could recruit other allies. The combined armies of the world."
"Normal human soldiers against sorcerers and giants. I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"It is a good idea," I said. "It will be useful if Koteph decides to raise an army of his own. Not to mention that the scholars of the University aren't necessarily bright strategic minds, and we could probably benefit from having a few generals around." I thought for a second. "Any of you know any good spells to send word? Or are we going to have to go the long way? I suppose we could ensorcel a letter."
"You think you can persuade them by letter," Allos laughed.
"Once they know that Koteph is-"
"Do you think they will believe you without me there? Even with me there, it is a tough story to sell. And any organization larger than eight people is guaranteed to be inefficient, so even if they do believe you, they won't get their defenses together in time. We need to go there in person, and tell them, and persuade them, and constantly remind them." 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

News From Abroad

Bashra was badly hurt. He had broken both of his arms and several of his ribs.  I could sense the remains of several invulnerability spells on him. He must have fallen a considerable distance.
I began casting healing spells. His life wasn't in any danger, which was fortunate, because I wasn't much good at healing.
"Allos, go get help," I instructed. "Specifically, go get some sheets. We can carry him inside. Cassinder, anything I should know? What is he doing here?"
"He'll tell you," she said. "Wait for him to wake up." What's the use of having a Seer in the family if you still have to wait for the future to come to you?

The future did come to me. Bashra woke up after about a day. I wasn't in the room at the time, but Ullic said he immediately started making requests.  "I feel like I haven't eaten in days. Fetch me something good. Oh, and find Amniel. I need to talk to him. It's pretty urgent. Possibly even more urgent than the food."
It was so urgent, in fact, that Cassinder came to find me. "He's awake. He wants to talk to you."
Ullic burst into the room. "He's awake. He wants to talk to you."
Sensing that Bashra was awake and wanted to talk to me, I made my way to his room. It wasn't in the White Tower proper. Just a marble addition my grandfather had made.
Bashra was sitting up. Pretty impressive given how many of his ribs he had broken. I congratulated myself. Maybe I was a better healer than I had thought. "Amniel. Did I interrupt you? Were you busy whittling your wood?"
"Yes." Then I realized what he was saying. "No! I mean-" I needed to change the subject. "Why do you have glowing yellow eyes?"
"It's part of a long story. And they are really more of an orange hue. Either way, you might want to sit down before I get started."
I summoned a chair.
"Cassinder, you should take a seat as well." My sister poked her head in, then sat on the floor.
"Now, you last saw me five years ago, at your father's funeral..."

"After that, I traveled around. I joined the crew of a ship. Their resident sorcerer. Saw the world that way. Then, I ran into Koteph."
"Did you kill him?"
"No, but I did try. He overpowered me."
"Why did he let you live?"
"Well, he wanted to work with me."
"You didn't-"
"I did."
"WHAT?" I grabbed Bashra. "You worked with the man who murdered my father?"
"I didn't want him to murder me too. And stop shaking me, I'm recovering from several broken ribs. Anyways, we have a fairly successful partnership. He had all those treatises on opening gates to other worlds."
"How could I forget? He stole them right before he murdered my dad."
"Yeah, those treatises. So we start delving into pocket dimensions. We met a lot of strange and powerful creatures. I'm probably the first person to see a dragon in over a hundred years."
"Is that why you're called Dragoneyes?"
"Well, yes and no. As we know from historical documents, dragons see the true nature of things. And the True Name. After found the dragon, I gouged out its eyes, and replaced my own. Now I have that power." He paused for effect.
"I already knew the True Name of fire. In the past three months, I have learned the Names of water, ice, clay, iron, bronze, gold, stone, and wood."
Suddenly, realization dawned on me. "Oh! You had me fooled for a while there. I really did believe you had worked with Koteph. I hadn't realized this was another of your jokes." I turned to my sister. "Bashra does this a lot."
It was hard to tell, but I think my guest rolled his eyes. He spoke a Name, and droplets of water began to condense from the air. He spoke another Name, and they froze.
"Now do you believe me?"
"No. That was nothing you couldn't have arranged with some charms. It did sound like you were saying True Names, but I wouldn't be surprised if that could be faked. It's a lot of effort to go through, I admit, but the alternative is impossible. Do you seriously expect me to believe that you know, was it eight True Names?"
"Nine." Bashra didn't speak a Name this time. He just concentrated, and the floor began to shake. Cracks appeared in the wall. I realized that Bashra was carving a statue. Before I could react, he had created a likeness of me. The marble man took a step forward. Then another. Then, he turned into dust. Then, the dust returned to the wall.
Bashra wasn't done. I could hear him muttering, and my staff flew out of my hand. A sorcerer's staff has dozens of enchantments to prevent theft or damage. Bashra held the staff, and bent it in half. It didn't break. The staff slithered on the floor, turning into inanimate wood only once it was back in my hand. I was convinced. Nobody who didn't know the True Name of wood could ever have done that. At least not while bedridden.
My mind was racing. If Bashra really did have this power, than he might be the most formidable sorcerer on in the world. In history. Which made me wonder. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, things with Koteph got bad. You see, he wasn't just opening doors to worlds with dragons. He was also visiting spirits. And summoning them. He became a shade."
A shade. A combination of spirit and sorcerer. The last shades had been killed before I was born. For good reason.
"Shouldn't be a problem. I expect the two of us could handle him. Especially given your new powers. Do you know where he is?"
"Yes, but don't interrupt me. He isn't just a shade. He became a double shade." I had no idea what that meant. "He didn't just summon one spirit. He summoned another." Was that even possible? I guess I was hearing about it from someone who knew nine True Names. "And another. He had dozens of spirits chained up inside of him. And that isn't even the bad part."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Unexpected Arrival

The Aeronautic shaft was my greatest work, the pinnacle of years of magical research. It was perhaps the most innovative creation of my entire career. It had the potential to revolutionize trade. And someone had snapped it in half on the first test.
"You're supposed to bend it, I said. "I said bend it. The wood flexes. The tension will weaken one spell, strengthen another, and cause wind to blow in the direction you bent it. You know how the wind blows if you break it?"
"No," my manservant trembled. I could see his eyes darting about, expecting to see a tornado forming over the horizon.
"Neither do I. Neither does anyone. It's the weather, and without a powerful enchantment to control it, it is completely random. I am trying to change that. But I can't accomplish anything if my clumsy manservant keeps breaking complex magical mechanisms in half."
Ullic, the Breaker of Shafts, was just about ready to run away. I was reminded of how terrifying a sorcerer can be. "Don't worry about it," I said. "The shaft itself was a piece of wood with some carvings. I can whittle another one in a few days." I went back inside. Ullic followed me. I strode through the white hallways. Through doors and up staircases. I passed Avel, another servant. We nodded at each other as we passed.
I entered my chambers. They were appointed in true sorcerous style, with arcane writings on the walls, exotic potions on the desks, and old clothes lying on the floor. There was also my Sorcerer's Staff. Technically, as a dropout of the University of the Green Tower, I wasn't entitled to it. But I was a powerful sorcerer from an ancient family. I recieved an honorary degree.
I thought about my Aeronautic shaft. As one of only three people who knew the True Name of air, I was in a unique position to create it. And of the three, I was by far the most proficient in the more mundane sorcery needed to construct such a device. An enchanted branch that wouldn't bend with the wind, but force the wind to bend with it. So simple that even a layman could use it. Unless, of course, they clumsily snapped it in half.
I whiled away a few hours improving on the design. And I jotted down some notes for a durability enchantment that wouldn't interfere with the workings of the shaft.    
I was about to enter the testing phase when my mother walked in. "How is the lady of the White Tower?"
"That is actually what I came to talk to you about," she said. "Your father has been dead half a decade. You aren't getting any younger either. Isn't it about time that you take a wife?"
"I couldn't possibly. Far too busy. And if my research with the shaft does reach a lull, I'll just head on over to the University and finish my education. Most of my knowledge of advanced charms is self-taught."
"You know," my mother said, "the two aren't contradictory. A bastion of magic and nobility is an excellent place to find a spouse."
I was about to respond with a witty and well-thought-out counterargument when I heard a crash. "Cassinder," my mother guessed.
"Allos," I said. 

My robes billowed behind me as I raced through the white halls. Billowing charm. They also didn't stain. A vortex blew me up the stairs. I heard two people screaming. The door was locked. No time for an unlocking charm. I melted the hinges, and surveyed the room.
It had two occupants. Allos was the family's one magical servant. He was middle-aged, going on old, but he had a strong body to go with his sorcerous prowess. He was using that body to wrestle Cassinder, my younger sister, to the ground.
Cassinder knew she couldn't compete with Allos physically. But she could compete with him magically. His Charm of Protection was sparking. I'd spent weeks on that, and it was sparking. An untrained young girl exhibiting more raw power than Allos would ever have in his life. "Cassinder, stop that."
She didn't stop. "He is coming. We need to find him!"
Cassinder was gifted with Sight. She could see events days in advance. Sometimes further. With very high accuracy. I once kept count over the course of ten days. She had fifteen visions. Nine were demonstrably true, and only one was demonstrably false. The remaining five were visions of the further future. And some of the things she saw... troubled her. One of her first visions had been of some 'Destroyer,' who would terrorize the entire world, including her. "Who is 'he'? The Destroyer?"
"He's getting stronger. He's almost here. We need to stop him. Let me go, I need to find him! Before it's too late! He's almost here. Almost here!"
Almost. What did almost mean to someone who has seen the far side of eternity? "What will you do when Allos lets you off the ground?"
"We need to find him!"
She didn't look like she was in much of a state to find him. It looked as if she had been trying to strangle herself before Allos came. It wouldn't have worked- I had spells to protect her- but I dreaded the day she turned her formidable magical powers to her own destruction.
It wasn't clear to me why visions of this 'Destroyer' drove my sister to self-harm. I remembered she had once suggested that his coming was her fault, but I suspect that had been insecurity, not prophecy. "What will you do when Allos let's you off the ground?"
"He's coming! He grows more powerful!"
I was about to repeat the question when I heard another crash outside the house. "Really? At this rate, I'll never finish my Aeronautic shaft!"
I ran out of my tower, Allos and Cassinder close behind. I saw a great flaming hole in the ground. I had lived in the White Tower nearly my entire life. And I was pretty sure the flaming hole was new.
What was that? Was someone trying to attack me? I tried to think what sort of magic could create a flaming crater. And who might be responsible. Then, I noticed something crawling out of the hole. Not something, but someone. He was badly burnt, and his eyes glowed a strange yellow, but he was definitely someone I had seen before. "Bashra?"
"I go by Dragoneyes now," my old friend said. "I'll tell you all about it soon enough. But first, I really want to faint." He got his wish.