Archive for the 'Aldain' Category
The clothes are perfect beyond my expectations. The tunic, coat, and trousers are made entirely from silk; they’re slate grey and crimson red–the traditional colors of Carlislander exile. Also included are a pair of boots and a sword belt, both made from durable, supple red leather. Those two are an unexpected addition, since they were not part of my original request. There is no cape or cloak, though. That, too, is part of the exile’s clothing restrictions. Turing has outdone himself, and that’s just the base materials.
I slip into magesight and examine closely the spells that have been woven into the fabric. The silk has been heavily enhanced, making it even more durable than usual. “Spell sinks” placed at a few strategic points will bleed off excess magical energy, keeping me from harm if a spell goes wrong. The belt and boots are both enchanted to be resistant to wear and stronger than their flexibility would naturally allow.
Looking deeper into the box I find there is something I’ve missed. A pair of thin, well-fitting leather gloves, the same color as the boots and the belt. In addition to several spells worked into the material, the palms have an unusual pad sewn on over the leather.
“What is this?” I ask Turing, presenting my palm to him after slipping on a glove.
Turing smiles. “That’s a little mundane bonus. The material is specially textured and designed to keep your sword from slipping out of your hands. Or anything you grip for that matter. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.”
I smile, removing the glove and placing it back in the box with its mate, on top of the other clothes which I have folded and returned. “It is wonderful, Mr. Director. You’ve delivered everything I wanted and then some.”
“So does this mean you’re satisfied with your payment?”
I nod. “Very. More importantly, it significantly increases the chances of me surviving my encounter with Maxwell. That has to happen before I can teach your men.”
“Naturally. You’ll be departing in the morning, right?”
Turing nods approvingly, slowly standing and turning back around to face the window. When he stands, so do I.
“Lodgings for tonight have been arranged for you, Sorcerer. Simply talk to Corporal Bell, the young lady who brought you here. She’ll escort you to your quarters.”
I bow again, despite his back being toward me. “Thank you again, Director Turing. I promise I shall return as soon as I can.”2 comments
“Now that we can speak freely in person,” says Turing to me, “I’d like to confirm a few details of our arrangement.”
I nod. “Fair enough, though I thought that the terms were quite clear.”
Turing is quick to put me at ease. “I think they were too, Sorcerer. I’d just like to make sure we’re in agreement now so we don’t find out we’re not later.”
“Of course. Forgive me if I sounded rude.”
“Not at all.” His expression shifts, a previously unrevealed intensity suddenly appearing. “You have knowledge of magical techniques that, in the hands of my magicians, could very well help us end this war. The Elders are not prepared to have their own weapons turned against them.”
I nod. “Exactly. And I will teach your magicians as much as I can. However, before I can pass on Poxen’s teachings, I need to complete the task that my Mistress has set before me. And to help insure that. . .”
“You’ve asked for your payment in advance,” finishes Turing. “And you’ve requested something more practical than any sort of cash.”
“Exactly. That’s why I commissioned the clothes. Well-enchanted garments are something I am desperately short on, considering my position. Mostly because I have no head for enchantment and Maguerite is far too busy to do object-work for me, personally.”
Michael smiles and pulls a box from the bottom drawer of his desk. “Here you are, Sorcerer. They were tailored to the magical scans of your body you sent us. They should fit perfectly.”
I take the box and lift the lid almost reverently; what I find inside makes my breath catch momentarily.No comments
The lift doors open; I step out and move down the hall, still escorted by the soldiers. I reach the door of the Office of the Director and it soundlessly retracts into the wall. The soldiers stop just outside the door as I enter.
The far wall is little more than a huge window, and it is there that Michael Turing stands, back to me, looking protectively down at the city which is his to care for. The trust of the Council of the Technocrats and the larger population of Melbourne has so far proven to be well-placed; Michael Turing has led better than anyone could have expected.
Slowly he turns to face me, a grim smile gradually emerging on his face. Turing is about a dozen years older than me. His sandy-brown hair is beginning to show grey, likely from the stress of managing an entire nation for just over a decade. We’re about the same height, though he is slightly stockier than I. Piercing green eyes heighten the air of authority he naturally projects. In short, Michael Turing looks every bit the part of the born leader he is.
“Aldain Walker, Proxy of the Mistress of Pain and Sorcerer of Carlisle.” He executes a near-perfect imitation of a Carlislander bow. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”
I smile back and bow as well. “It is an honor to be your guest, Director Turing. However,” I say, displaying my wrists, “your safety precautions, while both wise and understandable, have left me at a considerable disadvantage.”
“Oh, of course,” he says, moving to his desk and pressing a button. The glow suffusing the suppressors dims and I feel the cuffs loosen. He gestures to a chair across from his desk and sinks into his own chair as he implores me to sit. I do so.
Turing continues on apologetically. “It’s an unpleasant necessity, I’m afraid. I would have mentioned it in our correspondence, but shorter messages are, of course, more secure.”
While he speaks, I slip the loosened suppressors off and set them on the desk. The sense of relief and power, of completeness I feel as the magic is returned to me puts me much at ease. I shake my head and wave a hand in dismissal.
“No apologies necessary. I was neither surprised nor offended. Caution is nothing but a virtue for people in our situation.” Suddenly struck by a peculiar thought, I chuckle to myself.
“Something funny, Sorcerer?” Turing is a little confused.
“Only to me, Director. I just wonder what my father would have made of my lifestyle these days. It seems I defy the Teachings of Marrin and the sacred Word of the One at every turn. And now I’ve come to collaborate with the most prominent of the One’s Forsaken.”
Turing smiles. “I’ve always felt that the One had simply chosen my people for a different path. We may lack magic, but we are all of us blessed with greater intelligence and curiosity than the average man. It has always been the view of the Six Families that the greater affront to the One would be ignoring the gifts given to us and instead choosing to lament over ones withheld.”
“I think I like your interpretation of the One a little better than Marrin’s.” My expression grows a bit more serious and I sit up a bit more in my chair. “But the time for idle talk has passed, I think. Let’s get down to business.”No comments
The distant spires of the city are visible long before we reach it. However, in only a few short hours, I find myself at the Great Gate of Victoria, the city’s full splendor spread out before me.
This is the fabled White City of Melbourne. It is a symbol of mankind’s perseverance and ingenuity. Erected on the black-glass plains of war-torn Australia, it was the seat from which the restoration of the continent was achieved. And this restoration, this healing of a scarred land, was not done through magic. Instead of relying on power granted by fickle fate, the rulers of Australia turned to ancient and forbidden knowledge of technology. Through these “heretical methods,” life was returned to that which had been thought to be destroyed forever. Melbourne is hope: In five hundred years of post-magical history, it is the only major city never once to have fallen. And at its heart is the man who may well turn out to be the savior of all humanity: Michael Turing.
I am brought straight-away to the Tower of the Technocrats, the squad which captured me now making a perimeter around me, acting as both prisoner escort and security detail–for to be an unidentified and obviously foreign magician in Melbourne is a dangerous thing. I do not begrudge them that. After all, that attitude is largely responsible for unparalleled permanence.
We finally reach the Tower. It stands at Melbourne’s center, dwarfing even the otherwise impressive buildings nearby.
The Corporal says something into her helmet mic and the doors slide open. On her signal, I step forward into the Tower and begin the ascent to my latest blasphemy.1 comment
The triumphant return you’ve been waiting for. . .
I am not able to linger on Maguerite’s confession for long; Australia is a dangerous place, especially for a magician. With that in mind I begin to survey the plain I’ve landed in.
The wind is blowing gently, sending green waves and ripples over the surface of the plain. My combination recon/reverie is interrupted by my sixth sense suddenly registering an alarming amount of magic in my immediate vicinity.
Reflexively, I raise my arms, half a dozen spells ready to erupt from my fingertips should I need to defend myself. Without warning or pretense, six men and women appear in a circle centered on me. All of them are wearing the white powered armor of the Australian Army and pointing very large rifles directly at my head. Good. I lower my arms and let the magic subside; the mystical equivalent of un-nocking an arrow. Being able to mask their presence from me for as long as they did means the concealment spells built into their armor are both powerful and expertly enchanted. That bodes well for me.
The squad’s leader, a Corporal according to her insignia, speaks to me in brusque tones. “Quickly, concisely, and unambiguously state your name and purpose, magician.” She fills the last word with all the venom normally reserved for our language’s most loathsome curses. But considering the history of her nation, it’s hard to blame her.
“I am Aldain Walker, Sorcerer of Carlisle. I have arranged for a meeting with Michael Turing.”
The look on the Corporal’s face is easily worth being held at gunpoint.
“Lower your weapons!” barks the Corporal. Her soldiers comply, but her gun stays trained on the space just between my eyes. Smart girl.
“If this man is who he says he is, then he’s a friend–the one we’ve been waiting around out here two weeks for,” she explains. “If he’s not, I’m sure the real Aldain Walker will kill him soon enough.” She jerks her head to the left very slightly. “Smith, get the suppressors on him so we can proceed civilly.”
One of the grunts moves to me and places a white plastic cuff on each of my wrists. After a moment, they are suffused with a soft white glow. I’ll be unable to use any magic until they are removed. I feel a strange emptiness while so separated from my power.
Once this precaution is in place, the Corporal lowers her weapon.
“Follow me, Sorcerer. It’s a ways yet to go before we reach the city.”
I am led to a stealthed troop transport and invited to sit up front with the Corporal while she drives. As we trundle along our way to the city, my thoughts begin to wander.3 comments
Maguerite meets me at the launchpad on the continent’s edge.
Our nation is not the only one orbiting the planet. The sky is dotted with the magical beacons of freighters and transports flowing freely between the Earth and the so-called “sky-realms.”
“It’s beautiful,” I say, looking down at the World.
“Yes,” agrees Maguerite from beside me. Turning to me, she asks “Are you ready?”
I nod. “Stay strong for me, Maguerite. With me gone, the Mistress will be relying on you for magics. Don’t let her down. Remember the place you can get to from our quarters. Leave messages you have for me there and I will retrieve them.”
“You’ll come back to us, right?”
“I always have.”
We stand in silence for a while, looking at one another. Finally I step onto the pad. Maguerite starts towards the control console, then doubles back and throws her arms around me, whispering a single sentence in my ear. She then scurries to the panel and inputs the sequence that will allow me through the shields.
Not sure how to react to Maguerite’s message at the moment, I do what I always do to cope: I focus on the task at hand as best I can. I chant a few syllables to focus the magic I need. A soft glow radiates from me as I am encased in a protective magical shell.
With no further warning, I launch. There is no perceptible acceleration; one moment I am standing on the launchpad, the next I am streaking towards Earth with incredible speed.
I feel the intense heat straining my protective layer of magic as I hurtle through the atmosphere. I could have used a spell to prevent the friction of reentry altogether, but the spectrum created by the extreme temperatures on my shield is an exhilarating sight which I rarely have the pleasure of experiencing.
Just before impact with the ground, I stop as abruptly as I began. I slowly rotate in the air, righting myself and getting my feet under me. I gently float the remaining inches to the ground, and the magic around me dissipates.
In my mind I can still hear Maguerite’s whispered parting words.
“I never stopped loving you, Aldain.”2 comments
Once in my room I turn my attention to the remains of the demirealm I left behind. Reaching out with my magics, I can see the landscape clearly in my mind’s eye. The demirealm is now nothing more than a vast sea with an immense crater at its center. Water is rushing to fill the void left by the landmass.
With a thought I end the demirealm. I feel a rush as its power enters into me, the magic hot and real and almost tangible in my soul. It’s a feeling I never tire of.
Just as I finish undoing the demirealm, a knock comes at my door.
“Come in,” I say, unlocking the door with a gesture.
The door swings open to reveal Captain Nelfas.
“Sorcerer,” he says to me, briskly stepping into my quarters. “The men are getting anxious.”
Something isn’t right here. One of my wards is instilling in me a deep sense of uneasiness. I’ve always found it to be far more subtle and effective than an alarm anyone can hear.
“They want to know when-”
“Captain Nelfas,” I say with a nod, cutting him off. He’s confused, and rightly so. I’ve interrupted him with what is typically a greeting.
“Sorcerer?” he says, befuddled.
“We have a guest,” I say, gesturing behind him.
Nelfas turns, confusion transitioning seamlessly into a sneer of disdain as he sees who it is.
“Gerran,” he says, not bothering to conceal the distaste in his voice.
As usual, Gerran is visibly ruffled by the omission of his title when he is addressed. I’m somewhat disappointed that our Mistress opted not to kill him after all.
“Come now, Captain Nelfas. Let’s show Overseer Gerran the respect he deserves.” Gerran brightens at my use of his title. Pathetic scum. “What can I do for you, Overseer?”
Gerran bows low to me. “Sorcerer, I came to congratulate you on your successful execution of the sequence and wish you good fortune in your errands planetside.”
“Thank you, Overseer. Now if you’ll excuse us, Captain Nelfas and I need to discuss some solutions to morale issues in the Royal Guard.”
“Of course.” Gerran bows again then scampers away down the hall.
“What did he really want?” Nelfas asks as I close the door behind him.
“Probably just trying to ingratiate himself with the Mistress’s Proxy. Worry about it later. What did you have to say to me?”
Nelfas bows his head. “Sir, the men are becoming impatient. They want action. They want revolution.”
My demeanor turns cold. “Stifle such thoughts, Nelfas. If I hear any sort of treason among the men, I’ll kill the offender myself. We cannot allow appearances to slip now.”
Nelfas is not pleased at my reaction, but he understands its wisdom. More than that, he trusts me to do right. He’ll always see me more as Commanding Officer than friend.
I continue. “While I’m gone you will be in command of the Royal Guard. Absolute discipline and continued loyalty to the Mistress must be maintained. Anything else will undo everything we’ve worked towards for six years. Can I count on you, Captain?”
“Yes, sir,” he says. “I won’t let you down.”
He turns to walk out of the room but stops just before opening the door and turns to address me.
“Give Maxwell Hell for me.”
“No one’s supposed to know about that. Who told you?”
Nelfas smiles grimly at me. “No one told me, sir. But I can only think of one reason you’d be taking the risks that come with carrying that sword.”
“Fair enough,” I allow. “But don’t spread the word.”
“Noted.” He leaves and I am alone with my thoughts for the next hour or so.3 comments
I close my eyes and release a small magical shock wave. This flashes on the table in the crisis room, letting Maguerite know I’m ready. Moments later, I hear Maguerite’s voice in my ear.
“Communication spells have been activated and keyed to your intent, Sorcerer.”
I am now in contact with Maguerite and the Wizard Corps. When I speak, my voice will be heard by whomever I intend it to be.
“Maguerite give me a full report of our status.”
“Internal magic levels of the demirealm are normal, aetheric interference is minimal. Your predictions for the window were perfect. The members of the Wizard Corps are spaced evenly around the perimeter of the continent.”
“Your spell is ready?”
“The link can be activated at any time.”
Excellent. I turn my attention now to the Corps. Formerly an elite unit under my command in the Carlisle Home Guard’s Magician Corps, now my Wizards serve as the magical regiment of the Royal Guard of our Mistress. They are good men, all of them.
When I next speak, I am audible to the whole of the Corps, though I address only their commander.
“Give me a full status update.”
“Sir,” he says. “The men are spaced, primed, and ready. You’re clear on our end to begin the spell at any time.”
“Maguerite,” I say, now audible to both her and the Wizard Corps. “You may conduct as soon as you are ready.”
What we are about to do is dangerous magic. A mind-ensemble without a good conductor can leave one or more of the participants unresponsive, their identity permanently subsumed into the meta-entity created by the spell. Fortunately for us, Maguerite is a superb conductor with considerable experience.
The spell begins.
I feel my power and personality rise and join with those of the Wizards and Maguerite, becoming something greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Maguerite conducts the direction and flow of the groupthink, the groupmind. She brings my mind to the surface, putting me in control of the sum of our magics. The Wizards are extensions of me, like fingers or toes.
Under my control, they act as one, activating the shield that will contain the demirealm’s atmosphere. And now we are ready. As one, every Wizard in the Corps joins me in casting a massive transport spell. Our continent is ripped free from the demirealm and hurled through the aether. Collapsing the remainder of the demirealm will have to wait; I don’t want the Corps to know about that trick just yet.
Before my eyes can even begin to cope with the madness that is the human mind staring into the Meta-space of the aether, Maguerite takes the reins of the spell, instantly shunting us into our home realm. To Earth.
The spell ends. For a moment I feel an immense loneliness overtake me as the connective being, the synergy, is ended. The emptiness quickly passes and my breath catches as I look out the window. Looming on the horizon is the sight of the Earth from orbit. Of home. A quick glance of the continent with magesight confirms that the wards and seals are at full strength. The hard vacuum of space will not be harming us anytime soon, nor do we have much to fear from an enemy attack.
I turn and bow to my Mistress.
“It is done, my Lady.”
“Excellent work, Sorcerer. You may have a two-hour rest period before you depart,” she says as if doing me an enormous favor.
I bow again, deeper this time. “You are most gracious, Mistress. I shall return to my quarters and ready for my departure.”
“Very good. Go on then, Sorcerer.”1 comment
While Maguerite heads to the crisis room, I make my way to my Mistress’s chambers.
An attending servant goes ahead to announce me, then returns to show me in.
“The Mistress is ready for you.” I’m expecting him to add a “Sorcerer Aldain” or at least “Sorcerer” there at the end, but it doesn’t come. I walk in, slightly perturbed at the man’s failure to address me by my title.
All of that is pushed from my mind when I see my Mistress. Her outfit is one I’ve never even seen elements of before; she must have had it commissioned especially for our return to the globe. It’s a vision in ivory lace and black leather. A seamless blend of raw sexuality and timeless elegance, perfectly suited to her.
“Sorcerer, I eagerly await what our return shall mean for me.”
Her smile is the very definition of wickedness, but her eyes are stern and cold. That chilly stare wanders briefly as she stands and glides over to me, her gaze finally coming to rest on the rapier on my belt.
“You’re wearing a sword, Sorcerer. Why?”
She’s not angry that I’ve managed to keep the weapon for all these years, merely curious. I expected that would be the case.
“It’s for Maxwell, Mistress,” I explain as she takes my arm and walks with me to the balcony.
“Is this more of your nonsensical Carlisle ‘honor,’ Aldain? I thought we’d driven such foolishness from you long ago.”
“Not quite all of it, my Lady.”
She giggles as she takes a seat on a luxurious chair-throne on the balcony.
From here, the castle and surrounding villages stretch out below and before me. I close my eyes and take a deep breath as I prepare to begin the Sequence of Return for what may be the last time.No comments
Author’s Note: I don’t feel like the last three chapters have been the best writing I’ve ever done, but that’s okay. There will always be rocky parts, especially considering how inexperienced I am. New readers will have no idea (hahaha!) but my current readership will note that I’ve changed the spelling of Magareet to Maguerite both in this chapter and all preceding it. It’s the same character, you haven’t missed anything! For anyone new to the story, the horrible and slanderous idea that Maguerite’s name was once spelled Magareet is both horrible and slanderous. You should be ashamed.
I need to get back to the demirealm soon. It’s time to try what I had in mind at the beginning of all this. Maguerite’s made impressive progress in the few hours we’ve had to work. She can now see the vast tapestry of magic that holds this universe together, though I doubt she could construct a new one yet.
“Maguerite, are you ready?”
“I think so.” She does nothing to hide the nervous excitement in her voice.
“I’m going to slowly unravel part of this realm. You just have to fill in the weave as I undo it.”
And we begin. I start very slowly, both as an allowance for Maguerite and a caution for myself. Some of the hot plasma of creation begins to dim, but Maguerite quickly picks up the process, infusing the realm with her magic to replace what I take. Soon a good portion of this realm is running on her magic. Now I will be strong enough for the tasks ahead in the coming days.
“Excellent job, Maguerite,” I say. “Flawlessly done. This universe has two Gods now.”
Maguerite does another something I haven’t seen in years. She blushes.
“That was. . .exciting. And rather fun. Will you teach me more?”
“Every chance I get,” I assure her. Gods it’s been so long since we spent any real time together. I’ve been missing her without realizing it. Just one more reason to hate the Elders. And Maxwell.
“Maguerite, we need to get back now. You should be able to transport here from almost anywhere now, but don’t. Only come here from our quarters. I have protections in place that prevent someone from following your trail.”
“Of course,” she says, still smiling.
We fade back into the demirealm. Maguerite and I change into fresh clothes and ready ourselves for the return to Earth. Maguerite stands and readies to leave. “I’ve got to head to the crisis room to do the pre-jump checklist and take care of any last minute prep that needs to be done.”
“There’s one more thing I’d like you to see before you go. Something I’m taking with me when I go visit Maxwell.”
I reach into my footlocker and pull out a false bottom, revealing a hidden compartment. Lying there in the dust is an ornate rapier in its sheath. Maguerite’s breath catches as I lift the sword and wipe the dust from it.
“Is that what I think it is?” she asks, incredulous.
I nod. “The sword you gave me as a graduation present. The same one I used as my badge of rank in the Magician Corps of the Carlisle Home Guard.”
Maguerite’s familiar fierceness is back, her voice has an edge of savagery as she speaks. “Make sure that blade strikes true. I’ll sleep better knowing the weapon that killed Maxwell,” she spits on the ground after saying his name, the strongest insult to a man’s honor in our homeland, “was made by my hand.” There’s fire in her eyes, a fury that only Maxwell is capable of conjuring within her. “Show him what becomes of traitors, Aldain.”2 comments