Archive for October, 2007
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
The look of horror on Maguerite’s face tells me she has misinterpreted my intent.
“I have no plans to use this technique anytime soon, Maguerite,” I reassure her. “At least not for anything that I didn’t personally create. Do you really think I’d be so eager to unravel our very universe?”
She frowns at me. “Then how is it significant? A technique that can’t be used might as well not exist.”
“Traversing the aether to travel between one’s home realm and the demirealms is not difficult if one uses the proper techniques. However, travel between true realms is incredibly difficult. There are no methods guaranteed to work, and a trip is almost always one-way. The Elders are an excellent demonstration of this. Their universe was near the end of its life cycle, so they moved to ours.”
Maguerite shakes her head. “What does this have to do with anything, Aldain?”
“As a universe grows older, the magic it is built on develops. An old, cold realm on the verge of being reabsorbed into the aether is brimming with magic. There is much power to be gained from ending one of those. I’m trying to find a way to easily travel back and forth between proper realms. If I can do that, I’ll gladly end the realm that the Elders abandoned. Unfortunately, it will probably take much more study and experimentation. I haven’t even been able to detect any other realms apart from ones I’ve created, much less travel to them.”
Maguerite sighs, but she’s smiling at me.
“What?” I ask, confused.
“You remind me of-” a pause, “-better days. I remember when we were in school you’d always get so wrapped up in explaining every new concept you learned to me. I never quite realized how much I’ve missed that.”
She looks around, taking in my realm. Now that the shock of my so-called blasphemy is fading, she seems to be enjoying beauty of watching a universe form firsthand.
“You know,” she say. “I can see why you spend so much time here, Aldain. It’s peaceful. No Gerran, no Mistress, no duties.”
And now comes the time I’ve waited for.
“I can show you how it’s done, if you’d like.”
A look crosses Maguerite’s features that I haven’t seen in years. It’s an impish little smile that she hasn’t had call to use since our school days. Back in the castle, such a moment would only fuel my hatred for the Elders and the life they stole from my people and me.
But here, in this void with matter rushing to fill it, I can experience a little happiness. The anger is still there, but it’s background, distant.
“I don’t think I could do anything like this,” she says, at length. “I’m just an enchantress. A creative act of this magnitude is far beyond me and outside my specialty.”
That look is still there. She’s willing to try. I just have to convince her. “I have every ounce of faith in your abilities,” I say.
Her expression changes to another that I haven’t seen in years. “That’s reason enough for me to try.” She extends her hands, palms up. It’s a gesture from our homeland, a symbolic act of submission and trust one directs toward a mentor.
I begin to teach.2 comments
So how about a word on how the world of the Solomon Saga intersects with the world of Aldain and why they’re both on one website?
Aldain’s world is the same physical Earth as the one that the Solomon Saga occurs on, just later in that universe’s life. In the aether, the multiverse, of Aldain’s story (and, therefore, the Solomon Saga) a realm has magic over the course of its existence. However, for roughly the first half of its being, a universe will be configured as such to only allow more “low magic” effects. As a universe grows older the magical underpinnings it is built on grow more complex. This allows, for roughly the second half of a universe’s existence, the production and use of “high magic” effects.
Yeah. Isn’t that interesting?
Stephen’s unique and flashy powers are a result of the increased complexity of the magic weave of the universe. Individuals experience high-magic abilities long before magicians at large do.
Aldain 13 goes up sometime tomorrow afternoon.No comments
“Maguerite, how much do you know of demirealms and their creation?”
Wonder and horror are still mingled on her face; her answer is slow in coming.
“Enough to know that this is a blasphemy that even the Elders are unwilling to commit.”
“Unable, actually,” I correct. “But put that aside for now. Tell me what you do know.”
She shifts uncomfortably within the bubble shield protecting us both. “Not much, really. You know I had only completed one year of schooling before the. . .invasion.” The last word is thoroughly coated with venom. “After that, I focused more on practical applications, both during and after the war.”
I nod. “That’s about what I expected. So, let’s start with the absolute basics. What were you taught from the scriptures?”
“At the Beginning, the One spoke the myriad universes and the aether into being. In the First Realm, the Ancients arose. They were closest to the One in both time and power. It was they who perfected magic. They walked with the One and knew the One’s ways. The Ancients emulated their creator, peppering M-space with their demirealms–small imitations of the grandeur that was the One’s First Realm. Though the First Realm was perfect and infinite, the Ancients grew hungry for power. Together they conspired and committed a great atrocity. Their blasphemous crime was to make a true realm, to usurp the One’s place. By committing the act of Genesis, the Ancients dishonored the One. They were cast out of the First Realm and doomed to the lesser realms, each of which would eventually grow cold and fade back into the aether in time.”
I smile at her and nod. “A good summary, Maguerite. I’ve been working with demirealms for over ten years now, and I’m going to tell you some things that aren’t taught in the Temples. First of all, I have my doubts about the nature of the First Realm, given its near-mythical attributes and status. However, it is unmistakable that the Ancients did exist and did populate the aether with their demirealms.
“Over time, an unused demirealm fades into the aether, becoming almost indistinguishable from any other bit of M-space. Mages of our time lack knowledge of the techniques needed to fabricate new demirealms. However, they can coax a particular coordinate of M-space into “remembering” an absorbed demirealm. This is a relatively easy process requiring little energy on the part of the caster.”
I look at Maguerite trying to gauge her reaction. “Okay so far?”
“Yes. I think I remember reading something about that once, a long time ago. Please, go on.”
“I have always had a gift for manipulating the aether. A few weeks before graduation, I developed a way to synthesize new demirealms as part of my research. Unfortunately, we were invaded before I could finish up final testing and make my findings public knowledge. Since then, I’ve found a way to reverse the process, a way to undo a demirealm and absorb the magic invested in it by its original creator.”
I smile at Maguerite. “Recently,” I say. “I’ve been experimenting with full-fledged realms.”
“I knew it!” Her voice is loud and echoes within the tiny bubble of magic. “You have committed Genesis! You’ve repeated the Original Sin, brazenly defying the One’s will.”
“Maguerite.” My voice remains calm and level. I expected this from her, but I need to make her understand. “That’s the point I’m making to you. The One did not save us from the Elders. Neither angels nor demons have been interacted with since the early days of our realm’s High Magic period over 500 years ago. I have committed Genesis seven times and suffered no divine retribution. Either the One is gone or never existed. Either way, we’re on our own here.”
Maguerite just stares at me for a few long minutes, then speaks very slowly. “Seven times?” She radiates disbelief.
“Seven times, Maguerite,” I say, smiling. “Which leads me to this: Learning how to create demirealms led me to understand how they could be deconstructed for power. In the same way, knowing how to ignite a realm has taught me how to snuff one out. I can harvest magic from the death of a universe.”2 comments
I spend the day sleeping and eating meals at regular intervals. Finally, I am released from the ward. Maguerite comes to retrieve me.
“Come, Aldain. You have lost much time. We return to Earth tomorrow.”
I follow her out of the room, eager to change out of the plain white clothes of the medical ward.
“Your concern for me is touching.”
She lets out a little “hmph.”
“That reminds me. I have a message from our Mistress for you.”
I open the door to our quarters; we walk in; I secure the door.
“Well, what is it?” I ask as I begin changing clothes.
“She wanted me to let you know that your recent indiscretions merit punishment. Whether that punishment is carried out and to what degree will depend on how you deal with Maxwell.”
I’m not surprised by the news. Our Mistress is fond of using pain as a motivator to do better. I have as many scars from not learning one of Poxen’s lessons fast enough as from insubordination. Even Maguerite has felt our Mistress’s lash on occasion, though she has no scars to show for it. Maguerite is allowed to receive magical healing as soon as her punishments end.
“So is that all you have to say to me?” I ask as I button my shirt. Maguerite is silent. I fasten my cloak and am ready to leave the room when she speaks again.
“They wouldn’t let me see you.”
My hand stops just short of the door’s handle. “Excuse me?”
“While you were recovering, the Mistress kept me busy. The whole time. Coming to get you today was the first time I’d seen you since you left to go fight.”
She doesn’t need to say anything more than that. I turn to find her staring at me. Her face is flat and expressionless. Suddenly, a realization hits me, and hard. Over the last six years, I haven’t had a single real, meaningful conversation with Maguerite. Between my research, training, and official position and her duties, we’ve barely seen each other, even sharing the same room. I know what I have to do.
“How long are you free now?” I ask.
“Until we return to Earth. I’ve done everything that needs doing.”
I slip into magesight for a moment to ensure no scrying has penetrated the wards of our room, then to check that Maguerite is running on enough magic for what I have in mind.
“Maguerite, give me your hand. I want to show you what I’ve been working on.”
She reaches out to me and I transport us both into my infant universe.
She gazes wordlessly upon the fruits of my forbidden study. Finally, Maguerite finds her voice.
“Aldain, what have you done?”No comments
I wake up to the unwelcome sight of a familiar face.
“Hello Poxen,” I say to my teacher. “How long was I out?”
“Only a couple of hours.”
I can tell from his voice that I’m in for it. He has a lecture all ready for me.
“What the Hell were you doing, Aldain? Do you know how much the Mistress has invested in you? Are you so eager to throw away my teachings? You know magical secrets otherwise reserved for the most powerful of Elders, you stupid brat. Don’t even tell me what nonsensical magical experiment it was that you’d left running this time. I don’t want to hear it!”
I try to answer, but he plows on ahead.
“You attacked six A-boats while running at less than half power? And used an untested technique?”
His statements are facts, but thoroughly infused with disbelief. This is the sign for me to explain. Normally I’d give a detailed explanation of my motives, throwing up justifications that he would quickly tear down. But this time I know he’s right. I should have snuffed out my newborn universe, reabsorbing the magic spent on its creation. Had I done that, even the unexpected drain from the dracoform wouldn’t have mattered.
So I don’t waste time on explaining, I answer with a factual statement: “My tactics enabled me to complete the task with zero civilian casualties.”
Poxen snorts. “No excuses today. Maybe you are capable of learning.”
I try to get myself out of the bed, but Poxen stops me.
“Oh no you don’t, lad. You’re staying right here for at least 24 hours. The medical staff will make sure you rest and eat, something you’ll need to do if you’re going to bring us back to Earth two days from now. And I know you won’t get much of either food or rest if I leave you to your own devices.”
I sigh. He’s right. My hubris and my stupidity have cost me valuable research time. But these things happen. I resolve to be cognizant of this incident in the future.
Poxen leaves me and I drift back into sleep.No comments
Revenge of Sunday Update
Again with the cheesy B-movie title. Not a lot of progress has been made on the Solomon stuff this week. Made a little progress on writing up characters for the story of Joshua and Iris (hereafter referred to as “the Cycles”). Mostly worked on Aldain.
Speaking of Aldain, the update might be a little later than midnight, but probably not much.No comments
Author’s Preface: This is the third of three or so chapters of Aldain (7, 8, and 9) that will be a little something different. I’m pretty sure they’re a bit long by the standards I’ve established so far. Additionally, they try to get across several important visuals with as few words as possible. I need the few of you who read this to really step it up and tell me what worked and didn’t work in this chapter. If anything was unclear or confusing, please let me know in a comment ASAP.
I’m not weak yet, but I am running low on steam. The dracoform took more out of me than I thought it would. Despite my destructive cathartic outburst, my shoulder hurts like Hell. Still, I’m not worried. Maybe I should be, but I’m not.
The leader speaks to me from his craft. “You must be Sorcerer Aldain. It is an honor to meet you. I’ve read much of your exploits. If I’m going to kill you, I’d rather your power not go to waste. What say we settle this properly?”
Fool. His craft has made him overconfident. If he stays in that A-boat, he might have a chance. “If you’d like to sacrifice your one advantage, then by all means, proceed.”
He has already landed the craft and is getting out. He sneers as he removes his helmet. Strange, he has a bit more power than I detected earlier. The helmet must have had some sort of dampening effect. In an instant he’s airborne and it has begun.
First priority is always containment: I let loose a well-aimed bolt of electricity directly at the stationary A-boat, obliterating it. Now the survival of either of us is incidental; there won’t be any way for Carson to send any reinforcements. My decision, however, has opened me to attack.
I am struck from behind by a column of solid air, knocking me into the ground. I roll onto my back and point at the aethernaut, sighting down my arm. I speak a single harsh syllable.
A spear of ice erupts from the moisture in the air, speeding towards the aethernaut. It flies true, lodging in his chest. He falls to the ground. After that stunt, I have almost no magic left. Now I’m weak. I struggle to my feet and make my way to where he has fallen. He’s still alive, gasping for air.
“I’m told it’s less painful if you relax and don’t fight it,” I say as I stretch out my arm, palm down, fingers spread, directly above his chest. His power flows out of him and into me as his blood flows out of him and into the thirsty ground.
It takes less than a minute until he is drained of both life and magic. My shoulder still blazes agony as I once more take flight. I drift towards the castle and, after a time, unspeak the words to cloak and shield it. The castle fades into view below me. I make it to the gardens before I feel myself begin to fall as pain, exhaustion, and darkness overtake me.No comments
Author’s Preface: This is the second of three or so chapters of Aldain (7, 8, and 9) that will be a little something different. I’m pretty sure they’re a bit long by the standards I’ve established so far. Additionally, they try to get across several important visuals with as few words as possible. I need the few of you who read this to really step it up and tell me what worked and didn’t work in this chapter. If anything was unclear or confusing, please let me know in a comment ASAP.
The A-boats are currently locked into three spatial dimensions, but I don’t want them slipping back into higher-dimensional M-space before I’m through with them. I mutter words of power and fling six marble-sized lockdown spells at the A-boats. Each craft is washed in green light as my spell impacts it.
This, of course, relieves me of any element of surprise I might have had.
The A-boats peel off into an evasive scatter. Carson may not have much in the way of levelheadedness, but he trains his aethernauts very well and he builds quick machines. If I use my typical tactics with these, they’ll get to some of the outlying villages; I’d like to prevent civilian casualties.
Fortunately, I’ve been playing with some alternative aerial combat techniques recently. I close my eyes and speak to the world around and inside me. A riot of noise and light heralds my change, announcing to the six aethernauts that I am not something to be trifled with.
I am surrounded by the image of a luminous green dragon. I’ve given up a small amount of maneuverability, but now I am equal to the craft in both speed and durability. We are on equal footing. My body hangs motionless in the center of the dragon of green light, appearing to the outside world as dead or asleep. Instead, the dragon’s body is mine; I see through its eyes, control its wings, feel its pain.
Two of the boats come at me for an attack run, one left of me and one right. I bank hard left and shoot downwards but the two fall into formation and give chase.
They unload bursts of magical energy. For the most part, I don’t even try to evade. Their weapons aren’t much use against the dracoform, though it does hurt. Pain, however, is something I can handle quite a bit of, courtesy of my Mistress.
I spin around, letting loose a jet of flame from the dragon’s mouth. Both A-boats peel out of the way, but just barely. We dance in the sky, strangely beautiful; my sinuous, luminous, draconic form is surrounded by the shining A-boats and pelted with darts of light; ribbons of flame periodically tear through the sky and it becomes unclear who is chasing whom as we dance a sphere in the sky.
The other four craft buzz around me. They don’t want to get in the way of their teammates, but neither will they abandon them. The pattern of chase, be chased, chase continues for some time. Eventually, one of the aethernauts gets a lock on me and launches a missile. I dispell my dracoform, drastically reducing my magical output. The ploy works as the missile speeds past me to destroy the other A-boat. I use the element of surprise to fire a beam of magical energy, shaving off the wing of the attacking craft. He spins out and explodes spectacularly on impact with the ground.
The four remaining A-boats form into a delta formation and angle towards me. I smile and speak, my voice magically amplified.
“Who wants it next?”
The dragon form has taken a lot out of me; I won’t be able to pull that trick off again today. Shielding is feasible, but I’d rather use what power I have left for something more proactive.
Though I am slower than the A-boats, I’m smaller and a bit more maneuverable. They can’t help but scatter as I begin to weave through their formation. I unleash a shockwave from my body, catching two of the A-boats. Only two left. A quick glance with Magesight reveals that one of the survivors is the leader, since he has a small amount of magical aptitude and is the only one. The other is probably his wingman, judging by the how well he flies.
They regroup as I reorient myself in the air. They come at me shooting. The rain of magic bolts just doesn’t stop. I’m doing my best to avoid them, but a few strike home. One of them burns a hole through my shoulder. I cry out as pain floods my mind.
Remembering my training, I redirect the pain to a useful end. Strong emotion or sensation, especially anger and pain, can be channeled into magic. That’s just what I do, focusing the pain into a crystal blade and cleaving the offending vessel in twain as it completes a strafing run. The leader veers off and the crystal blade shatters in my hand as the wingman’s craft detonates.
It’s just me and the leader now. He’s got magic in him, no matter how faint. That makes this special. A magicians’ duel is always spectacular, and always deadly.2 comments
Author’s Preface: The next three or so chapters of Aldain (I’m thinking 7, 8, and 9) will be a little something different. I’m pretty sure they’re a bit long by the standards I’ve established so far. Additionally, they try to get across several important visuals with as few words as possible. I need the few of you who read this to really step it up and tell me what worked and didn’t work in this chapter and the ones that follow. If anything was unclear or confusing, please let me know in a comment ASAP.
I sit in my bubble of magic watching my infant universe expand and cool, kept safe from its birth-throes and the hazards of vacuum. I idly watch as plasma begins to coalesce into proper matter while I browse the aethernaut’s memories. They’re mildly interesting, but the rookie hardly even knew Maxwell. One thing interested me, though. He’d once caught a glimpse of the Lady Duchess of Carlisle, Maxwell’s wife. She seems familiar to me, but I can’t tell much from the brief and blurry image from the aethernaut’s mind. . .
My concentration is shattered by deafening silence filling my head. My alarms in the pocket realm have been triggered. I drop back into my world, once more leaving this one to grow.
“What’s happening, Maguerite? Please tell me this is a false alarm.”
“Not a false alarm,” is all she says.
I’ve reappeared in the so-called “crisis room.” The large enchanted table that dominates the center of the room is already active and displaying a 3-d map of the demirealm. Our pocket reality is larger than average, since it has to house our entire nation. It consists of a landmass around the size of Australia in a sea of a size somewhat indeterminate, due to the nature of the demirealm.
Six flashing dots on the east cardinal point are rapidly making their way inward toward us. The guard captains rush into the room and I start giving orders.
“Captain Nelfas, form your men up into a defensive position on the castle battlements. Garnell, your men are currently on wall duty, so you and your guards will be under the command of Captain Nelfas until this battle is resolved. Maguerite, you’re in charge. I’m going to head them off. I’ll activate the castle defenses as soon as I’m clear.”
Everyone is moving. Maguerite takes command, barking out orders to those in the room and issuing castle-wide commands via magic.
For my part, I leave the castle and take to the skies. I say a certain word under my breath and the castle seems to fade away. Its defenses are active, obscuring it from sight and protecting it from magical attack.
Satisfied, I head East at top speed. Soon I can see them and it’s exactly what I expected: Six aethernauts, the markings on the A-boats identifying them as Carson’s men. That fits. Carson’s the only one in that band of M-space stupid enough to attack us so brazenly. The kid has guts, but his indiscretion is going to kill him before he can capitalize on that.
Not today, though. I have no intention of taking prisoners to find his co-ordinates.6 comments