natural

The room smelled of leather and wax.  A desk took up most of one wall, a bed another, a small window would have invited in the sunshine if the thick drapes had not been shut against it.  Two candles on the desk provided the only, flickering, light.  A small bookcase, only two shelves and those only half full, was on the third wall within reach of the desk.  There was no door to the room.  It required magic to get in and magic to leave, as per its design and intent.  The creator favored privacy so he could study uninterrupted at his leisure.

He had come to his room that morning to tidy the place up a bit.  He would soon have an apprentice he would be bringing along to study and practice the craft.  However, he had soon gotten distracted in the particulars of a spell he had been toying with.  The few books he did keep were more a set of observations and ideas rather than written spells.  He was of the belief that magic was organic, natural, and couldn’t not be controlled simply with words.  It had to be felt, breathed, tasted, touched, lived.  Some of his peers laughed at him and called him a fool and yet sometimes their magic failed them.  His magic never failed.

Still, they flourished in their schools and their traditional methods, advancing through hierarchal ranks, accumulating spell books and scrolls, accolades and apprentices.  He became the recluse, happy to practice the craft in his own way, confident in his abilities and his assumptions of the art.  He was fine with that arrangement until a recent trip to the nearby town and had resulted in a deviant attempting to rob him of his meagre possessions.  He had called upon his magic to foil the heist.  A passerby had witnessed the exchange and had begged him to teach them.  After a prolonged conversation, it was learned that the passerby, still a child in many ways, had failed in the traditional schools but still wanted to learn.  He saw this as an opportunity to prove his theories were correct.  If he could teach another his methods successfully….

Light sprang from his hand as he finished the spell.  He had called upon the flame from one of the candles on his desk to share its illumination with his flesh, then he called upon the light itself to intensify until it was as though his hand had become a torch.  He pointed his palm at the dark corners of the room to reveal the cobwebs gathering dust in the shadows and that reminded him of the task he had meant to set upon.  Closing his hand the magic dispersed and the light went out.  The candles continued to flicker in the stirrings of his movement.  The room still smelled of leather and wax.  Nothing had changed.  Everything had changed.

and then

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A breeze tugged at the hem of his robes.  He was aware of the slight play in his attire, as he was aware of everything around him, but it held no true interest or concern.  He simply catalogued the wind speed, should he have need to factor it into a spell later, and moved on.  There were miles yet to cover before the sun set on the day and the miles already covered had not been kind.

Puffs of dust lifted away from each footfall and then settled before the next step was taken.  It wasn’t the only sign of his passing, but these marks in the trail were the most obvious.  Not that he expected to be followed, or cared if he was, but he was still mindful of the evidence he left behind.  There were tricks and spells he could use to hide his back trail, but he was in too much of a hurry to bother.

The sun lowered itself upon the horizon, spreading the last of its warmth and glow in shrinking patterns and shapes.  He marked the stretching shadows.  He marked the settling chill.  He marked the changing colors in the sky above.  Each of these could be a factor if his magic was called upon.  Still, he progressed steadily forward.

When the moon decided to slip free from hiding, he would stop for the night and use its muted glow to make a hasty camp and eat.  He would trust his wards, woven into the fabric of the clothes he wore, to protect his short sleep and then in the morning, before the sun had begun to climb free of the opposite horizon, in its chase after the moon, he would journey on.

His destination waited two days ahead of him.  There would be a fight.  Blood would be spilled.  Hopefully not his own, but one could never be certain of these things before they had actually happened.  Still, even uncertain of the outcome, he must go.  He owed it to those who had gone before him.  He owed it to himself.

Thinking of the looming battle stirred emotions best left in check until his journey was over.  Electricity crackled from his clenched hands and fire roared briefly in his eyes.  Closing their lids, but not stopping his forward steps, he took a deep soothing breath and when he opened his eyes again the fire had gone.  He tucked his rage away, saving it to unleash when he arrived and faced his tormentors.  The fire rightfully belonged to them and they would see it in due time.

a day in the life

Image Credit: OnConference.com

The restroom smelled of acrid decay, mostly emanating from the pools in the corner, and I instinctively stopped at the sink to wash my hands.  I could feel the stink of the place on my flesh.  When I looked up, the wizard in the mirror said, “The trick is to believe you are where you want to be.”  I blinked and he was gone.

I long blinked again and then held my tired lids closed and imagined the smell of sea spray filling my nose while the crash and roar of the tides echoed in the distance.  I wasn’t surprised to find myself in the same dingy bathroom when I opened my eyes.  I could see where I wanted to be.  I could hear it and smell it.  However, I never truly believed I was there.

The level of faith and trust required to truly believe in something had never come easy to me.  My mind worshipped logic and my heart beat to the rhythm of mathematics.  One of the yellowed iridescent bulbs over the sink flickered in response to my distracted lingering and I turned off the faucet and carefully stepped away in search of a towel to dry my hands.  The wizard winked at me from the air blower by the door.

I wiped my hands on my pant legs to avoid that germ fest and used my back to push open the door.  I considered the cost of the shirt I was wearing and briefly debated burning it rather than throwing in my washing machine when I got home.  Sound reasoning, however, swayed me quickly to the side of soap turned to sounds through mechanical agitation.

The hallway was lined in copies and bad knock-offs of famous paintings and I shook my head in disgust at the ruse of our dying culture.  It reeked of desperation to fake high society rather than own the truth of our reality.  The wizard stepped in to replace the screamer and whispered, “The trick is to believe you are what you want to be.”  I ignored him and carried on down the hall.

I walked purposefully, holding eye contact with those I passed, and projecting confidence and an exuberance for the mundane rituals of our pointless lives.  Again, though, I was not immediately successful or happy.  I knew what it meant to be both.  I knew what it took.  However, I did not believe I was worthy of either.

The office smelled of futile decay.  A sea of cubicles, awash with wasted life, drifted with the tides of change.  Eyes shifted above glowing screens to mark my progress across the floor.  I could hear their thoughts, a cacophony of pleas for freedom, and the weight of their cries slowed my steps.  Laughter, cruel and low, caused me to turn and see the wizard staring at me from a nearby computer monitor.

I hated him.  His mocking promises and half-truths had haunted me since I first began to understand what it meant to be a contributing member of society and the shiny gloss of a child’s dream of adulthood quickly wore away.  I knew he was a figment of my stifled imagination, logically, and I would never be free of him, but his demand for faith was something I could never supply.

ambushed again

“Even now I could kill you with a word,” she spat at him.

He shrugged his shoulders, sending a ripple down his flowing robes, and raised his eyebrows.  The movement stopped just above the ground, where he seemed to hover over the muddy earth, and enchantments kept the muck from contacting him.  With an emotionless voice, he responded, “Prove it.”

It had been an easy bluff to call.  If he had followed her movements and had witnessed the magnitude of the magic she had just finished unleashing, he would know exactly how weakened she would be.  And, the feat would have been draining with normal spells.  The druidic coercion had left her far more weakened and vulnerable than she would have been otherwise.  The sorceress had no recourse but to continue the bluff and hopefully buy herself enough time for a real solution to arise.

“Before I kill you,” she replied, matching his emotionless timbre, “I would love to know why you turned your back on our studies.  Did I not treat you like a peer?  Did I not open doorways for you that you wouldn’t have found studying under anyone else?”

“I know you are stalling,” he laughed.  The sound echoed bizarrely, warbling, in the empty river bed and his voice was returned octaves lower, a moaning ghost.  It fit the altered landscape and the feeling of being haunted caused chills to run down both their spines.

Before the sorceress could use the brief distraction to her advantage, four more magicians appeared next to her betrayer.  Their faces were hidden beneath shadowy hoods, but she was certain she recognized the features of at least one of them, her more recent betrayer: the wizard who had left her to die in the dragon’s den.

At her best, she would have liked her chances against the five magi that spread in front of her.  Her eyes tracked their progress, using an old trick where she focused beyond them so she could see them all rather than watching one at a time.  However, she was not at her best.  She was nowhere near her best.  As much as she wanted to stay, fight, and destroy her enemies, the prudent action was to flee.

A fire burned within her, though.  It was born of rage and fueled by years of torment.  It had once been tempered by ambition and a desire to make her way through the ranks of sorcery, but those governors had finally been scorched by the heat of her anger.  There was nothing within her left to hold her fire in check.

She heard the dragon’s laughter in her mind, howling with mirth.  The beast had been right to sense a kindred spirit in her.  She pushed herself out of the mud, and her eyes burned fiery orange and purple.  “I will kill you all.”

burning

Flames erupted behind the roar, cascading in waves that trailed after and then surrounded the concussive voice echoing up from the depths of the cave, and reached for the wizard and witch with talons of devouring heat.  They didn’t have the distance, though, to reach the intended targets so the dragon quickly shut them off and began to squeeze through the cavern, clawing at the charred earth to pull himself closer.  He could no longer see the magicians, but he could still feel them, and he could hear their whispered movements clearly.

The sorceress, momentarily caught off guard by the ferocity and speed of the dragon’s flaming attack, took a few steps back before she realized there was no danger.  She brushed aside the panic that tried to grip her heart and she bravely strode forward again, chanting the spells that would keep her safe from fire and turn the beasts own attacks against it.  In her periphery she saw her wizard companion moving deeper into the shadows and she reminded herself not to lose sight of him.  They were there to fight the dragon together, but she still sensed a trap.

The legendary monster bellowed again and its outburst drew her attention.  He had moved faster than she thought possible and the flames spewing from its maw engulfed her easily.  While her magic kept her safe from the fire, she still found it incredibly uncomfortable to be surrounded by the intensely brilliant oranges and purples.  The colors swirled so brightly she felt she would see them behind her closed eyes, burned into her vision, for days to come.

Her magic saved her again a second later, as she went crashing into the call wall.  The flames had blinded her to the dragons continued movement and one of its massive paws had swept out and knocked her sideways.  Momentarily out of the flames’ path, she swept the cave to see if she could coordinate attacks with the wizard, but he seemed to have vanished.

Then a massive eye filled the entirety of her view as the dragon lowered its head to her level.  It glinted with laughter.  It shined with anger.  Its seemingly endless darkness drew her in and captivated her.  She knew she should move but she could not.

“I can’t see you, witch, but I know you are there.  I can smell you.  I can feel your magic radiating off you.  Though, I think you should know, I can no longer sense your companion.  He has abandoned you here…  I get the impression you aren’t that surprised.”

The sorceress, her enchantment broken, continued her mental mantra and weighed her options: fight or flee.  She didn’t expect the dragon to give her much time to decide or any other options, but she took a chance, counting on her magic to save her one more time if she guessed wrong, “I was led here under false pretenses and l mean you no harm.”

“Too late.  Much too late, now.  You are already here.  I am already awake and the fire in my soul is burning.”