Episode 3: Last of the Dark Magi
Here we are. We made camp at one of the southern hills that overlooks the capital. My king assigned me to attend a meeting known as the summit of ages. The summit itself is often a great meeting ground for mages of all the primal elements, many are friends but recently many are also foes. Take the Lightbringers for example. They are basically the armed forces of the Cyrithian church and their founder Cyran. Sworn to spread the light by any means necessary they are on the verge of war with almost everyone. So the king, in all his wisdom, appointed Ilyana, the captain of the royal guard, to assist me and protect my well being. She is a very skilled knight, maybe the best in all of his majesty’s realm. I trust my own abilities in magic as well, so I am far from defenseless. The summit this time should determine whether or not anything will be done about the current state of the Ether Tower. In its best days the magical energy that flows out of the top of the tower gleamed with such beauty. Recent times have seen the flow wane. I suspect it has to do with the church’s crusade to bring their own purification of the world. I also believe them to be completely delusional and drunk with power.
The next day Ilyana and I awoke early in the morning to prepare ourselves for what would be a long day ahead of us. She took some water from a small stream nearby, meanwhile I meditated on a rock. As she returned from the small stream she threw an apple in my direction, which in turn hit me right on the head. I caught the fruit just before it hit the ground though. “You’re getting careless”, mentioned Ilyana with a grin. I took a deep breath, opened my eyes and said, “I was distracted by something that I can’t quite grasp clearly. The city seems to be bustling already”. “You can tell that from here?”, Ilyana looked on while mounting her horse. “Not with my eyes, I can sense the people there, the ones awake, the merchants, the knights, the mages and so on. The ether flow is pretty strong even with the changes I keep feeling”. “We should start moving into the city”, Ilyana offered her hand to help me mount the horse as well and begin our short trek towards the southern gate.
“Balthazar! How good to see you again!”, a robed man pulled his cowl back, I recognized him instantly. “Julius! Good to see you as well! How have you been?”. He replied, “Pretty well, I have travelled to many places and met many people in my journey across the world. You should try this sometime”. Julius and I studied magic for some time back at our kingdom, but then he decided to go out exploring the world. I was too dedicated to my studies to simply pack up and go. Still, I was very happy for him, we have always been good friends and even though I never really know where he goes we often meet up in unexpected places. “My friend I have a duty to my king now, this here is Ilyana, my protector and captain of the royal guard”. “Well, that sounds like something you would do. How do you think the summit will fare?”, Julius asked while toying with some sand using magic. “I am wary of the Lightbringers being here, but the grandmaster and the mage court made the open invitation as per tradition. I honestly think they are warmongering fools. Their quest to rid the world of Flux magic will put everyone in peril”, I gave the most honest answer, for some time I have seen what the Lightbringers do. The light is often a symbol of purity, free from prejudice and hatred, but these people have corrupted it. On the other hand, Flux is often seen as a source of evil, in reality it is as much a part of us as our very shadows.
I was already walking on my own as I approached the main conference hall. This large structure was built many ages ago by masters of the elements to study the Ether Tower. Years upon years of knowledge lay here in the multitude of libraries scattered across the city. Many mages begin their studies here, although many tomes and books are off limits to beginners. Ilyana left her horse at a nearby stable and fell behind while I browsed the marketplace. She didn’t want to call any attention to herself, so she told me she would watch me from a distance to better survey the area. Meanwhile as I looked around I saw my favorite tailor had closed his shop. I thought to myself, “Ah, what a shame, I wanted to get a new robe, this one has outlived its usefulness and the ether threads no longer shine as they used to”.
The loud clang of a marble orb against a metal plate echoed through the hall and signaled the beginning of the summit. Before entering the hall a pair of knights, bearing the emblem of the church, stared at me as I made my way in. Lightbringers no doubt, looking to murder another, I would not be easy prey, so I kept my guard up the entire time. Finally I had a chance to sit down. From there I looked on as the hall filled. I could even make out Julius sitting on the other side. The structure was built as a large oval hall where mages could sit down and discuss things with the hosts who stood at the podium in the middle. It was built much like a coliseum except on a slightly smaller scale. “Please take your seats, Grandmaster Zephius will be with you shortly”, a steward said, his voice echoed a bit, perhaps the acoustic enchantment needed some adjusting.
“The summit of ages now begins”, a deep and powerful voice was heard. Almost everyone in the hall went quiet and focused their attention on the center podium. There he was. Grandmaster Zephius stood tall as he addressed the mages, “Welcome to all of you to this grand hall. This year the summit must tackle issues of great importance, not the least is the current state of the world’s ether flow. As you all know and have felt, the ether, the very energy that courses through everything is in a state of flux, and I remind you this is completely unrelated to the school of magic we know as Flux magic. The changes in the flows and the Ether Tower are worrying. We need to investigate what is happening but we cannot do this only from here. Your assistance will be necessary to find out what is happening”. Some murmuring could be heard building up, which was quickly subdued by the stewards. Before grandmaster Zephius continued to speak a man, bearing the emblem of the church, interrupted him and said, “Grandmaster Zephius, the church has no intention of studying this anomaly, we already know the perpetrators are users of Flux and its derivatives. The only reason we came here was to assert our legitimacy and to…cleanse!”. A flash of light overcame the entirety of the hall.
Only a few minutes had passed and already the church had made its move, perhaps prematurely, although no one could make sure what their target was. Regardless many mages were dying from attacks. Most were blinded, but my own magic saved me, or at least helped me overcome the flash of light. It is no secret that light and flux magic are opposing elements. The light, once known as the Fixed Force, is the order to the Flux’s chaos. Both are necessary except in the eyes of the church. I casted a number of illusions and moved around dodging the mages running for their lives and those defending themselves with the most powerful spells they could cast. A fireball hurled across the hall from one end to another blasted through one of my illusions and hit one of the Lightbringer knights. My main goal was to leave the hall in one piece. It seemed that the church had planned for this for some time as many Lightbringers, both mages and regular soldiers poured into the hall. Grandmaster Zephius showed why he held the position and used a multitude of spells to protect many mages as well as the stewards. When I last saw him, he led a group through the chamber where he originally entered in the back of the hall. I continued my way to one of the three entryways, there I saw as Julius was brutally executed by a ravenous soldier. It was clear I needed to do something more than just run away. I called upon the shadows to grant me strength. My years of studying the Flux and dark magic gave the knowledge to cast a vast dark mist that allowed those not attuned to light to escape. The plan of the church was clear, to assert their dominance. Perhaps even the grandmaster was a target of their malign crusade. I moved freely and easily through the mist. It was clear that these soldiers and mages had not fought the likes of someone with such control of dark magic. Slowly I raised small clouds of the dark mist around my friend’s murderer. They circled around and entered his body through his nose. The knight swung his sword in a desperate attempt at clearing the mist, I could also see the light mages casting their spells trying to disperse the thick cloud that engulfed them. This spell was unique, because it fed on the very energy they used. In such desperation they did not learn that their energy was powering my spell, stronger and stronger. The murderer soon fell, the mist hardened within his body turning into a volatile ash that pierced his lungs. In all my years I had yet to have to defend myself to violently, but the church had to be opposed. The remaining soldiers and mages of the church began to flee, they knew that they could not fight someone of my caliber, nor the combined forces of the other mages and the grandmaster who now had the clear upper hand. I withdrew the mist. A church soldier tried to make a run at me, but seemingly out of nowhere Ilyana stepped in and struck the man down. “Why thank you my lady!”, I was very relieved to see her safe. “Can you explain this?”, she was rather shaken and clearly had fought her way to the entrance. I replied, “Let us join with the grandmaster”.
Grandmaster Zephius had some bruises, as did many mages. Other injuries included a burn or two and temporary blindness as is the case when fighting against light magic. All schools of magic had their own way of healing, even so there were light mages appalled by the whole situation and tried to rectify what the church had done by providing healing to everyone they could treat. “How has it come to this? How could I have been so blind?”, grandmaster Zephius was still in shock at all the violence that had erupted in such a short time. Ilyana told me that as the battle raged inside the conference hall, outside soldiers poured into the streets and began taking away some people. Those who did not pledge themselves to the church were either slain or purged with light magic. “They were brutal in their assault. The city guard was caught unawares. They were ill prepared for this battle. This church moves with impunity, how will you proceed grandmaster?”, Ilyana asked worried that this could also happen back home. Zephius looked to her, “Go back to your kingdom and prepare your defenses. If they were bold enough to come here I do not doubt that they will try to strike at your people”, then he turned to me and said, “You there, you might as well be the last of the dark magi, return to your home and protect it at all costs. The very balance of the world might depend on it”.
We had only gotten a short distance away from the southern gate but I felt a great change. I looked back and saw some smoke billowing upward. “They are savages”, I exclaimed. Ilyana nodded in agreement. Her armor was dented in some parts, “We have to prepare for the worst. King Adrian must know of what happened here”. “It is a long way to go, I hope that we will arrive on time”, the two day travel between here and the Kingdom of Lyre was worrying, the Cyrithian church might have already moved to attack. The flow of ether changed once again. My attunement to the energy made the trip much more difficult. It was dizzying. I could also see how the flow of ether from the namesake tower was greatly fluctuating, as if reacting to so much death. I thought to myself, “This does not bode well for our world”.