Part One: The Death of Magic
The axe blade bit deep into the woman's chest with a sound like splintering wood. The piercing scream that filled the high vaulted chamber didn't abate as her heart was pulled still beating from her living body. Only when the blood vessels were cut did the woman slump into lifeless silence. Her warm heart, dripping thick blood, was skewered onto the horn of the carved statue that stood behind a bone altar. Two other hearts already adorned the three horned statue of OthmaDiarn, a man's and a child's, both equally as fresh.
The priest of the three horned statue removed a container from the carved mouth, into which the blood had collected. Carefully, he poured the blood into the saucer-like base of an ancient, but still shiny, candle holder, then placed it into position on the altar. A plain white candle was stood into the holder and lit. As the flame burned the blood began to creep up the candle, darkening its milky interior. When the blood reached high enough, the flame began to burn, a dark grey interwoven with threads of red.
Thicker and faster the smoke rose, forming a solid shape above the flame. The priest threw wide his arms and opened his mouth, beckoning the presence of OthmaDiarn into his mortal soul, an act which would grant him immense power and life everlasting. Larger grew the cloud, now man sized, now as solid as flesh.
The candle flickered, as though a slight breeze had disturbed it. The priest's eyes widened, something was wrong. There wasn't a breath of air in this deep chamber. With mounting panic, the priest realised the cloud was out of control. The candle flame faded to yellow, the blood draining back into the holder, which was now tarnished and dull.
A scream to rival the screams of all three of the dead filled the chamber leaving no room for echoes. OthmaDiarn, his form no longer bound, had leapt into the priest's body. Three explosive blasts sounded in the underground room, each separate and distinct as the priest's body turned from whole to parts, to lumps, to pink mist.
Too late, OthmaDiarn realised he had destroyed the container of his essence in this world. Formless and drifting, he dissolved through the room, his inhuman death yell as unheard as the rest.
Less than a mile from the surface entrance to the vaulted chamber, a middle aged man of indistinct features noted the tingling sensation cease in the hand that clutched a thick rod. He smiled, a pleasant, warm smile, then picked up his nap sack and moved on.
The woman hissed through gritted teeth as the sharp knife dragged across her abdomen. She bit down on a thick leather strap to stop from crying out. Another sliding agony of pain locked her every muscle rigid as the knife moved again, this time deeper. The people around her held her tight as the pain threatened to black her out, but she fought against it, was determined to stay conscious.
Another pain blossomed as probing hands reached inside her, took hold and pulled. Sighs of relieve sounded all around as the baby was tugged gently out of the womb and placed on her mother's chest by the birth healer.
No sooner had the mother looked down at the still wet baby than it was snatched from her. Voices whispered behind her, worriedly she cried out. Helpers held her tight as a healer stitched up the layers of her abdomen, but still the mother twisted her head for a sight of her baby. She relaxed as the infant was placed into the arms of a carved figure, a likeness of the benevolent mother. The eyes of the statue glinted with moisture as it looked down on the new born child struggling for breath.
Those not involved with the mother gathered around as the child took first one breath, then another. A single wail, quickly cut off, silenced the room. One of the healers was pointing with a shaking finger at the face of the figure. The eyes of the statue had dried, a thin crack had appeared on the carved nose. As they watched in horror, it grew up and down the face, widening as it went. A healer with more presence of mind snatched up the baby as the crack travelled down the full length of the statue. Finally, the two halves parted, dropping to the stone floor with a dull thud.
All at once, the wailing began again, growing in volume until the whole town stopped to listen. In her mother's arms, the child drew breath, the first of many, the last of the benevolent mother's children.
In the top room of a tavern only two streets away, a middle aged woman with long, dark hair, packed away a thick rod that had only just stopped humming. She added her velvet dress and the few pieces of jewellery she had worn to the bag, closed it and called for a servant. It was time to move on.
Along a path that led straight to death, a figure stooped with the burden of age, dragged himself wearily one foot before the other. He was dressed in a plain hooded robe which reached down to the everyday sandals he wore. His only other possession was a long staff on which he leaned, and which was remarkably heavy. Anyone who could have seen his eyes would have seen a power there, a power balanced almost perfectly by the energy contained in the staff. Almost.
He was dying, he knew that, being consumed from within by the battle with the magic, the only magic left in the world. It had been a long struggle, but he could smile, mostly because he wouldn't have to walk back.
Their's had been a valiant battle, the Triangle of Nine, ridding the world of the evil of magic, but worth it in the end. Now man could live as it was always intended, could bloom again in a wholesome fashion.
Stopping to rest for a moment, the mage looked out across the landscape; rock, high hills, plains, but all yellowish rock. Nothing lived here, although many things died here. Not even the plants that thrived in other dry places could live here. Not a single animal or bird ventured into it or flew over it. Which was ideal for his purpose.
Setting off again, the mage died a little more as he crossed wills with the magic. It demanded to be free, but not here, not yet.
Later, he stopped again, looked around, trying to gauge whether he was far enough away from the nearest settlement. No, he decided, just a little further.
His will began to fail later in the day as the sun burned through his robe, parching his skin, drying his mouth. The mage stopped, this would have be enough. There was still one thing left to do, and that would take the last of his will.
A smile cracked his lips. An irony, he thought, enough power to rend worlds gripped in his hand, yet he wasn't even allowed to create one last cool flask of water. Scanning all around one final time, seeing nothing but dust blowing on the hot breeze, he prepared himself.
The mage gathered his will, began summoning the last spell anyone would ever cast. With all his physical and mental strength he rammed the staff towards his knee, releasing the power that would keep him in one piece until the wood was broken. Energy surged through his body, cladding him in unbendable armour, giving him the might of giants. The staff impacted with his rising knee, cracking the wood in two, releasing a maelstrom of compressed magical energy in a single heart beat. Strong though it was, the mages protective spell shattered like glass against granite, leaving him merely human in a storm of cosmic proportions.
The rock beneath the mage melted like wax, a wave of energy flowed outwards, rippling the ground like waves on the sea. The centre flew upwards, miles into the hot air. Sound like giant drums boomed across the empty land, echoing around the hills and plains. From a safe distance, which was several days walk, a blinding flash of many colours was seen, followed by a cloud, like a thick stalk topped by a spreading cap.
Only a few hours later, all that remained was a smooth sided crater and a strange rippled landscape three miles across.
A spike was driven into his ankle, fastening him to the searing rock. Blood from the other spikes had already joined with the redness seeping from his other wounds as it ran down the sloping face of a large boulder. Life blood gathered in a crack by his feet, mixing with wind blown sand. The four soldiers backed off, admiring their work. It wasn't easy to hammer metal into this type of rock, it tended to crack and the spikes fell out. With a nod of satisfaction, the leader gathered up the emperor's men and led them away, each spitting on the captive for good measure.
The Sun soon dried the blood on the rock, and raised blisters on the already tortured skin of the young man. Very close to death, the pain had long since faded into a closing blackness. With lips swollen and cracked, the man mumbled curses against the emperor mixed with cries for help. The sun rose and set, but the man still clung to life, his body stubbornly refusing to release him. Finally, he didn't know how many days later, the last seconds of his life ticked by as the beats of his failing heart slowed. Beat. Beat.
The sky lit with a blinding light, a mighty boom echoed around his head and the rock he was fastened to dropped backwards, an avalanche of tumbling, vibrating stone. The captive gasped, assuming this was the end of his existence, he prepared as best he could to meet whoever the priests had said would be here. A deep chasm opened under him, dropping the rock and its passenger into its boiling depths, then closed over him.
Part Two: Rebirth
"And that was a thousand and a hundred years ago, according to the book of Sagix."
The young wizard sat at rapt attention, her grey eyes wide with awe, as the old wizard re-told the ancient stories. The old man continued. "But as we now know, the magic wasn't destroyed, just spread out again, as it had been in the beginning, but the olden mages weren't learned enough to see this, else too learned. Then a man named," The wizard pointed at P'treema.
"Iray Wisehand." She answered without hesitation. The wizard smiled, "And what comes from that name?
"The word 'wizard', wizard B'dra'to." She replied just as quickly.
"Good, P'treema, you pay attention. In a wizard that is a prime quality. You must pay attention to all things at all times."
The old man stretched out, easing a dull ache in tired legs. "The old ones had power, power we can only imagine. The stories tell of great magical battles, raging fire and lightning smashing down castle walls and destroying whole armies. These are some of the things lost to us, along with magic rings and wands, magic boats and flying things. But, if we all study hard enough, who knows, one day one of you may bring down castle walls, with just your tiny finger." B'dra'to crooked his age blighted digit, smiling at his class of youngsters. They laughed.
"Off you go then, but remember, study everything, miss nothing."
P'treema bade farewell to her tutor and the classmates she knew well, and headed for home. On the way she tried to look at every single thing around her, counting the adobe houses as she passed them, listed the colours of the garments hanging to dry in the warm breeze, tried desperately to name all the animals as they wandered across her sight.
It wasn't easy, sometimes she wished she hadn't been found at the annual wizard trials. But then she would light her lamp with just a thought, and then she was so glad she had.
Arriving home, she called out to her parents as they sat in the garden enjoying the evening sun. Their house was on a hill overlooking the wide green valley that provided much of the areas wealth. Cattle, horses and deer were raised on the lush grass that grew all year round. P'treema entered the house and climbed the steps to her room. Her window looked out up the hill, but she didn't mind, who wanted to look at boring cows any way?
Just before she opened her door, she imagined her small lamp lit, glowing a soft orange by her bed. Then she held the image, picturing every detail. She filled in the rest of the colours, the flickering of the small flame, the shadows cast by the small doll and the books piled all around. On entering she cried out in triumph, the lamp was lit, illuminating the room just as she had seen it in her head. That had been the first time she had managed it through the door. Dropping her study books on the bed, she went over to the window and opened the shutters. But instead of looking out like most would, she looked up, past the few clouds and up to the sky that would soon bear stars.
Often she wondered what they were, she had heard many stories, some of them just plain silly, but she promised herself that one day she would find out.
With diligent study and much practise, P'treema soon became B'dra'to's best pupil, showing a wisdom beyond her years and a caring for others the old man approved of. He decided it was time for her to see the world, to venture out on the journey all wizards completed in order to gain knowledge, without which she was only half trained. B'dra'to sent a message to a friend, asking him if he knew of a suitable travelling companion or two who could link up with her. Wizards never travelled alone, two was safer, but also introduced a second viewpoint, often of greater value than all the book learning a tutor could muster.
Soon, an excited P'treema, now a young woman, bid her family a tearful farewell, and set off to meet her companion at the port half a days journey north. B'dra'to went with her, to see all was well.
A small figure huddled in the stern of a sea going vessel trying not to be sick. She was wet, cold and tired, sleep being impossible with this constant and unfamiliar motion. She hadn't really eaten either but she preferred not to think about that. For two days the ship had creaked and splashed its way along the coast, travelling so slowly, she thought at times they were going backwards.
Why couldn't she have gone by land? A three day journey over the mountains and she would have been there. But no, father said it was dangerous, it was much safer to go around, even if it took ten days. At this rate it would take even longer.
All for nothing too, all because some doddering old wrinkle-arse had said she had the wizards power, when not once had she been able to do anything magic. For the hundredth time today she drew in a deep breath and let out a self indulgent sigh. The helmsman, standing at the wheel a few paces away, ignored her, he'd heard it all before.
Shemaz supposed she ought to make the effort to walk over to the water barrel, she was very dry inside, but the thought of going down to the latrine filled her with dread. Only at night, when the wind calmed somewhat and the ship steadied a little, could she go below to wash and relieve herself.
Pulling the damp, salt encrusted blanket tighter around her neck, Shemaz looked up at the flapping sails. She was no expert, indeed had never even been on a boat before, but she was sure the sails should be filled with wind, pulled tight by its force. A fleeting thought whispered across her mind, perhaps she should tell the sailors. No, better not, they probably wouldn't appreciate it. After all, she was only a farmer's child, she new nothing of the sea, had never even seen it until a few days ago, not this close anyway.
For three days now she had bundled herself in this blanket, taken her seat on the hard deck, and still been green with sickness. Despite being blown with sea spray and suffering the mocking laughter of passing sailors, she was forced to endure, for here was the only place on the entire ship that she didn't actually vomit.
Pulling up the blanket until only her blue eyes and the top of her blonde head showed, she muttered to herself, cursing the wizard, her father, her teacher, and anyone else who had the slightest link to her journey. Especially the sailors, those grinning, monkey-faced, slimy, not at all sea sick idiots, clambering around those silly ropes like hairy legged spiders.
Why couldn't the sails fill with wind? She wailed under her breath. Just a few blasts and the ship would speed along. Surely that wasn't too much to ask?
Shemaz found that keeping her eyes on the sails made her feel worse, so she looked straight up, at the slow moving clouds high above. For a while this relaxed her, a wind blew across her forehead, cooling her heated brow. The clouds moved in a different direction to the ship, something she found odd. Surely the clouds were blown by the same wind?
Shemaz tried to study the wind, watching the clouds, then the wind fluttering the sails. It all seemed so chaotic, no order at all. Wouldn't it be better if the wind flowed smoothly? She stared at the clouds, then moved her head, trying to keep the same focus as she looked at the sails. It was no good, she simply couldn't see the air moving, only the effect of it.
The sickness returning to her stomach was the only indication that it had momentarily gone. Whilst she studied the clouds she had forgotten completely about her condition. Quickly, she looked up again, and began to look from mast to sky, searching out the finer movement of the wind.
She tried to image what wind would look like, and decided that ribbons, themselves blown by a breeze, were the nearest thing she could think of.
And there they were.
She was so startled she sat upright with a gasp, assuming her lack of sleep and water had induced a fever. Almost shyly she looked again, pictured the ribbons.
A grey ribbon flowed from behind the ship and into the sail, a bulge appeared where it impacted, then slowly drooped as the ribbon curled away from the sail and around the ship. Shemaz sat bolt upright. No, come back, she thought furiously, but the ribbon ripped to shreds as she tried to retrieve it.
Slumping back into her original position, she watched the ribbons; some grey, some white, some red, as they swum and entwined across the sky, lazily curling and criss-crossing in a casual fashion that infuriated Shemaz.
Finally, she could take it no longer. Seating herself as comfortably as possible, she calmed herself, and began to pull the ribbons into the sails. The old wizard had told her magic came from the pictures in your mind, one merely had to imagine something to be true for it to be true. One by one ribbons of wind flew into the sail, pressing and bulging the canvas. The sailors began to stop and look up as the ship slowed. Not at all the effect she was after, Shemaz stopped concentrating and let the ribbons have their freedom. A knot of ribbons writhed before the sails, then broke apart, allowing the ones behind to once again drive the ship. Shemaz slumped back, her sickness forgotten for the moment, but she was no closer to where she wanted to be.
A few minutes later, she noticed a large ribbon of wind approaching the ship from the left side, was that port or tarboard? The ribbon angled towards the sails, then at the last second was knocked away by another. Shemaz was almost audibly seething with anger, so when another came by and was about to be knocked away, she grabbed the offending ribbon and stopped it, causing it to break up. The first ribbon was now free to hit the sails, which belled nicely against its force.
Looking around, Shemaz found that many of the ribbons that would otherwise miss could be made to hit the sails if given a little nudge. Others that approached at the wrong angle could be straightened, doubling their effectiveness.
For the first time in three days, Shemaz smiled, almost giggled, as the sails filled and the old ship, with a creaking of rope and a slapping of canvas, bit through the waves, surging forwards under the tamed wind.
Three days later, a full four days early, the ship arrived at the port of Sahgony. The captain was whisked away by other sea farers and ensconced in the local tavern where he was plied with drinks and entreated to tell his story. For most of the night, and the rest of his life, he would earn free drinks telling the tale of how he traversed the point of Calasha, a notorious spot of contrary winds, in only half a day.
A tired, thirsty, and ravenous Shemaz hopped onto the quay, a smile on her face. Well, she thought, that was exhilarating, must do it again some time.
Beat. Beat. His heart didn't stop, but carried on beating, thumping in his chest as the magic energy washed through him. Fading life was snatched up and repaired, wounds were healed, the tortured body made whole. Still the magic seethed and burned, all around him a sparkle of power chased and flowed. He was nourished by it, then improved, as the energy was thrust into every cell, into his mind and heart.
Years passed, then more, until one millennium had gone and another started. Buried under the rocks of the place called Death, he lay undisturbed, whilst the magic faded and spread through the rocks. Then, one day, the wind and heat flaked off a final piece of rock and sunlight flashed into the buried chasm.
A point of light appeared, he tried to shield his eyes, but was somehow pinned down. Unable to do anything but close tight his eyes, he endured the light, like so many other things in his life.
A pulsing in his arms and legs grew, making him uncomfortable. Realising he was trapped under a massive rock fall, the man would have panicked, but found only calm in the depths of his mind. Cautiously, he tried to reach out with his hand, and found the rocks slid apart easily. He did the same with the rest of his limbs, then stood, forcing hard stone aside like he was rising from a feather filled cover on a soft bed.
A few more swimming movements found the man atop the low hillside under which he had lain. The land around was warm, and had a pleasant yellow tinge to his eye. Nothing moved beside himself, this also he approved of. A thirst niggled at him, but he ignored it, there was time for that later. First he had something to do, but he couldn't remember what.
He sat on a small rock, picked up a stone and melted it to an orange lava in his hand. With a few well placed pinches, he made a small animal, possibly a dog or cat. Then he threw it into the air. Several seconds later it came back down, landing in his out stretched hand, although his eyes were shut tight.
Slowly, he opened his eyes and focused on the stone. Fragments of memory returned, a women, blond hair and smiling, a man, laughing into his face, pain, lots of pain. Then he remembered. He stood, turned all around, then shouted. "My name is Dhomag, and I have vowed to kill the Emperor."
The noise was deafening. Battle raged all around, metal against metal, against wood, against flesh. Death screams filled the air, shrieking, roars of triumph, bellowing. They were losing, being driven back by superior forces. Then the ground began to rumble, a ripple spread across the surface. Just before the line of enemy wizards, a gigantic head broke from the ground. Horns like sharpened tree trunks, eyes of fire, a mouth that gave forth a baking breath. The ground ignited as the gagrog burst from the soil.
The enemy wizards launched spell after spell against the fiery behemoth, all to no avail. Strangely, a woman sat atop the beast, lounging between the horns like a queen on a parade. Her long legs bare, her black hair streaming in the wind.
The wizards turned their attention to her, but their magic was repelled by the presence of the gagrog. The woman turned her head, searching, as if for a certain target. Eyes fell upon green eyes, locked. The gargantuan creature, sensing its mistresses wish, turned its bulk towards the target. A mouth wider than the city gates opened. Heat and stench from the breath would have melted stone. One thundering step after another, the beast moved, eating up the ground with its long strides. The green eyed woman tried to scream, but her mouth was frozen closed, tried to run, but her legs wouldn't move. The gagrog stamped closer, then lifted a taloned paw to crush her to pulp.
She sat upright, sweat dripping from her naked body, soaking the bed sheets. She took several deep breaths, steadying her heartbeat. When she was calm enough, she turned up the tiny glow of her bedside lantern, lighting the room with a soft yellow light. Padding over to the window, she threw back the shutters and stood in the cooling breeze. As the sweat evaporated and her racing heart quieted, a smile spread across her face. For this had been no nightmare, but a vision. The woman atop the beast, controlling its unstoppable rampage, was she herself, princess Oleana-tarli of the house of Iamun, soon to be queen Oleana-tarli.
The smile widened. The Princess stepped out onto the moonlit terrace and slid into a reclined chair. Her hands moved over her soft skin, cupping and caressing her breasts, fingering her large nipples. With a sigh, she ran her left hand slowly down her stomach and over her pubic mound, slipping into the already damp slit. A deeper sigh escaped her mouth as she began to move her fingers back and forth, widening her legs until her feet touched the floor either side of the chair.
On the palace wall just above the terrace, in the shadows of a turret, a lone guard watched the princess and began to loosen his armour. His hand slipped inside and started to rub his hot erection in time to the princess's rhythm.
Oleana-tarli wondered how much the soldier had to give to get this posting each night, for she knew it was the same man, she could sense that. The princess could also sense the man's rising pleasure, adding to her own. Her fingers moved faster and faster, her moans louder and louder. They shared a climax that night, and never even met, the soldier completely unsuspecting that the princess was aware of his every emotion.
- Copyright Steve Dean