I am currently swamped with midterms, so I will be a little late with the update. I promise, it is coming! In the meantime, feel free to post suggestions the punishment I shall suffer for failing to deliver.
It has been some time since my last letter. Given your choice in lifestyle, it has been difficult to track you down. But even in the savage wilds of the Archipelago, my name holds sway, as does my coin.
Not much has changed here since you left Kalos. Your mother is still reveling in our new social station among the well to do. She occupies herself with various clubs and charitable causes. Between her poetry workshops, alms collections for the lame, and dressage team, I hardly know what she’s doing at any given time.
I’ve been busy with work, seeing to overall operation of the guild. I must admit, I’ve missed having a more hands on role. Since becoming the Head of the Boilermasters, it has been all paper. I haven’t heard the hiss of steam or felt grease on my hands since before you left. But someone must lead the guild and look out for the interest of its members, and I can think of none who would work more fervently to that end than myself.
Halafod is in his last year of schooling. He seems excited at the prospect of leaving the books behind and joining in the family business. Over the years, he has shown a real aptitude for design, though he still maintains a lot of his childish naivety. In spite of this, I think he will make a fine addition to the guild.
This brings me to the purpose of this letter. In the five years you have been gone, I have kindly asked you to come back and take your place here. I’m not going to live forever and for every good man in the Boilermakers, there is also a lying snake who would bleed the lot dry for his own profit. We need you, Malagog. I need you.
We all miss you, but we cannot stand by, waiting in the wings forever. If you will not give up on this fanciful obsession with adventure, piracy, and, worst of all, magic, I will be forced to take action. You have one month to reply to this letter. If you have not, I will consider that sufficient answer. You will be stricken from my will and forfeit all rights and responsibilities of the family name.
Please come home, son.
Head of the Boilermasters
-An unopened letter addressed to Malagog Grindle
Postmarked 5th of spring, 722 AF (after the fall of the Magekings)
Delivered 4th of summer, 722 AF
As the hours wore on, the logs in the fire burned down to glowing embers. Magnus had forgone his usual chair, instead taking a footstool by the hearth so he could watch it die. In the dimming light, an eerie atmosphere hung in the room. Even though almost nothing had changed, he felt like a stranger in this house. The intangible sense of comfort had been leeched out by a millennium of strangers, living here, worshiping him like some kind of prophet. This was no longer a home. It was a shrine to a person who never really existed.
A blinding flash of light filled the room, forcing Magnus to clench his eyes shut. The window rattled from the roll of thunder. As the stars faded from his vision, the mage rose and blindly fumbled toward the window. When he looked out, he was greeted by a pitch black sky, broken randomly by great arcs of lightening. The lights of a ship anchored off the coast tipped back and forth, jostled by an increasingly agitated sea. Rain began to patter on the roof, louder and louder.
The door opened suddenly, letting a gust of cold, salty air into the room. The coals went out, snuffed in an instant. Hawthorn and Mal rushed inside, dripping wet. Magnus looked over at them. “What are you doing back here?”
Hawthorn shot him a fierce glare. “I live here, jerk”. Her bark was dark, and her leaves were dotted with beads of water. “Just because you’re back doesn’t mean you can kick me out.”
Magnus struggled to bite his tongue, but remembered Rowan’s words. “I just meant…”
Malagog interrupted, shaking the water off his body, flinging it everywhere. “We’re back because of this storm. Row doesn’t want to get underway, so we’re staying anchored.” The kobold sauntered over and began starting a new fire. “And I’m here because Rowan doesn’t trust you with Hawthorn.” There was a pause as he placed a few new logs in the fireplace and spread kindling around them. “Oh…I wasn’t supposed to say that part. Ignore the last part.”
“Sis trusts Mal more than you?” Hawthorn chuckled, shooting Magnus a dirty look. “That’s a pretty low blow.”
He could only shrug his shoulders. Conversing with tact was like navigating a labyrinth for him. “I’ve suffered worse fates.”
A tiny spark formed in the fireplace and Mal began to blow on it, speaking between breaths. “I feel…so flattered…right now.” The spark grew, the wood starting to crackle. “Fire’s ready.” With a pleasant chirp, he ambled over to one of Magnus’ book cases and began to rummage through its contents.
Hawthorn took her seat by the fire, holding her hands out. As she dried, steam hissed from her wood. “Mmmmm…” she said, reveling in the warmth. “It’s times like these that I see your merits, you little rat.”
Mal had already pulled three books out and was perusing them simultaneously. “Hey Magnus, which one of these is your spell book? And why does your spell book have a portraits of people in it?”
“What are you talking about?” He walked over and snatched a book from the kobold. As he looked down at the page, Magnus’s heart felt heavy. “This is…this is a directory of faculty from the Opened Eye.”
Rolling onto his back, Mal looked up at Magnus. “They were you friends?”
He shook his head. “More colleagues I guess. I don’t have time for friends.” As he looked through the pages, the weight in his chest grew more and more. Finally, he had to shut the book. “I didn’t have time, I mean.”
Malagog crooked his head to the side, studying the mage. “So…you were like us, even back then, too? You’ve always been alone?”
“Mal!” Hawthorn exclaimed. Her eyes met with Magnus’, forcing her to look away, embarrassed. “You can at least try to have some tact,” she said in a low mumble.
The tiny creature pulled himself onto his knees from his lounging position. “I’m just saying we have something in common. Row and Thorny are alone together. I left the mainland by myself. Dor and Grimm, the other crewmembers, are both loners.” His ears were perked up and his ratlike tail wagged quickly. “People like us tend to find one another.”
Magnus placed the book back on the shelf and had taken his seat in the padded chair once more. There was a still moment where only the popping and firewood disturbed the air. Then he spoke. “Listen…I appreciate what you’re trying to do. But you’re not like me.” He sighed, slumping back in his chair. “You’re all outcasts, living in a world that hates you because you’re different. I’m alone because…because of the choices I made.” With a sigh, he swept back his hair, holding it tight to keep from tearing up.
The kobold pushed one of the stools closer and hopped on top of it. “You think we kobolds are outcasts. Not hardly! This war your people started was the best thing for my people. Because of it and our gifts for tinkering, we’re no longer farmhands and slaves.” He locked eyes with Magnus. His usual levity had been replaced. His orange eyes narrowed to points. “I made a choice to leave that behind. I wanted something different. And I was alone for a long time.”
Hawthorn looked over her shoulder at her companion, the corners of her mouth cast down in a frown. “You don’t have to tell him this. It’s not like he cares anyway…”
Mal ignored her. “Magnus, I know this is hard. I know what it’s like to lose people. People you care for, even if you didn’t know how much until they were gone.” His gravelly voice was soft, almost too low to hear. “Sometimes you make choices and you have to stick with them, for whatever reason. But you don’t have to do it alone.” He sat down, cross legged. “You can choose to let other people into your life.”
Magnus was speechless. Biting his lip, he mulled over the right words to say. Finally, he spoke.
“That was the sappiest thing I think I have ever heard,” he said, in the best jovial tone he could muster.
The two of them stared at each other, then burst into laughter. Hawthorn’s brow furrowed as she turned around in her seat. “What’s so funny?” she asked. “I don’t get it.”
Both men finally settled down, stifling a chuckle here and there. “Never mind,” Malagog said. “It’s nothing.”
Hawthorn’s dour expression relaxed and she smiled slightly. “You’re both nuts.” She then yawned, covering her mouth as she did so.
Mal followed suit, but let out a loud yelping yawn that rang out in the room. “I think it’s about time to hit the hay.” He shot the other two a quick smirk. “Who gets the bed?”
The young ghille stood up, her skin returned to is normal lighter hue. “Obviously the lady of the house gets the bed.” She slowly sauntered toward the bed on the far side of the house, only to break out into a run and dive into it. She giggled as a few feathers erupted from the pillows. “Enjoy the chairs, boys.”
After sticking his tongue out at her, Mal made a daring leap from one of the seats to another closer to the fire. With another ear piercing yawn, he stretched, then fell to the seat with a loud thump before curling into a ball on his side. In a matter of minutes, he was asleep, murmuring to himself in dreams.
The wind outside howled and the rain beat down on the cottage’s roof. As he tried to unwind and sleep, Magnus’ mind could not stop racing. Between the news of the war, the loss of everyone he had ever known, and being shot, he simply could not keep his eyes closed. After an hour, he gave up on sleep.
Rising slowly to avoid making noise, Magnus went back to his window. Through the glass, he could see the lights of the ship, bobbing up and down, back and forth as the sea battered the ship.
He couldn’t help thinking of Rowan. She was right. He was his own man and he had to make a choice. But what was the right choice? Making friends with a bunch of other misfits just to keep from being alone? Apologizing for not being some magical messiah from the past? He pressed his forehead to the cool glass and could feel the rain splashing onto the glass.
“You still awake?” a small voice called from behind him, from his bed.
He turned around to see Hawthorn, sitting up in his bed, wrapped tightly in blankets as though they were a cocoon. He nodded.
The corner of Hawthorn’s mouth arched down. “You know, even though you’re a complete ass…you can talk to me about it.”
“Thanks,” he said, a sliver of a smile breaking through.
The two of them looked at each other, unsure how to proceed. Finally, he moved closer, taking a seat at the foot of the bed. She wrapped the blankets a little tighter.
“I’m sorry,” he said, in a tone that was equal parts sincerity and shame.
She studied him from her cloth fortress. “Sorry for…” she trailed, leaving the ending for him to finish.
He swallowed hard. “Sorry for…well for being mean to you. For not being more…you know…”
“Sensitive?” she offered.
Hawthorn relaxed her grip on the blankets. “I forgive you. Thanks. And I am sorry too.” She looked down sheepishly. “I know this is a lot to take in and I’m sure me flipping out didn’t help. But you have to understand…this idea….this image of you…” She pulled her knees in to her body, using them to hide all of her face except for her eyes. “The idea of the Chronolord wasn’t just something for me. It was something for generations of my family. And I’m the last of them.”
The mage let out a sigh. “I’ll be honest. I do not understand at all. I’ve never had faith in anything but magic. To me, the universe is just rules waiting to be discovered. But I want to try to, you know?”
She smiled at him, her eyes reflecting the orange glow of the fire. “I can live with that.”
Magnus felt like some of the burden on his shoulders had been lifted off. “You should get some rest, Hawthorn.”
Nodding, she laid back in her bed. “Sounds good.”
As he stood up, she spoke up. “Magnus.”
“Hm?” he replied, looking over his shoulder,
“Maybe just because some of the Chronolord thing is wrong doesn’t mean I wasted my life. Maybe…maybe you’re still going to save us, you know?”
The words hung heavy in the air. Magnus stood silent for a few seconds, then spoke. “Sweet dreams.”
This is an age of suffering and woe. We have been sacrificed on Man’s alter to Progress. Our kin have been splintered by axes and burned by flames. Those of us that have escaped the Iron Army’s grasp have been force to give up our homes. Never again will we feel the earth from which we sprang underfoot. While we refugees may live on, the heart of the Ghille people is dead.
Yet, in these dark days, hope springs from the barren ground of our exile. As we fled from our tormentors into the islands north of Kalos, we sought refuge in an abandoned house. It had been pillaged, most likely during the hunt for the last of the Magekings. Most of the Grove made preparations to spend the night. A few of my siblings and I went into the dark cellar below, eager to prove ourselves fearless young men.
But as we sifted through the debris, we found remnants of journals and notebooks detailing magic beyond the understanding of even our greatest scholar. What’s more, I found a note from the owner of these tomes, a man named Magnus Black. This Magnus had used one of these spells to travel time and would one day return to us.
My mind reeled at the story laid out on the page. Could it be real? Could there be a mage who escaped the wrath of the Republic? Not only that, but a mage of such talent that he could perform such a feat as controlling time itself! Imagine what he could do to the fat, indolent forces of the Iron Army.
It was then that I swore I would wait for Magnus’ return. I would wait for the Chronolord to save us.
-Journal entry from Photinia Roseceae, founder of the Cult of the Chronolord
Dated 723 years after the fall of the Magekings
The sharp pain in Magnus’ head had dulled as he sat in his simple cottage. Despite the years, the place was surprisingly well maintained. The planks of the floor had either been well kept or replaces, as had the beams of the ceiling. His bed was made, his kitchen more organized than when he had left, and his hearth had a roaring fire. Only a few trinkets here and there were missing or replaced, no doubt taken, broken, or lost to the years. The place was preserved: a monument to his legacy as the “Chronolord”.
Melting into his old padded chair, the mage relaxed, the stress and tension of the past few minutes leaving his body. His eyes drifted shut as the cushions wrapped around him. His brown cloth robes soaked up the heat of the fireplace, making him sigh contentedly. Rowan, Hawthorn, and the hairless monster took different and less comfortable seats forming a semicircle around the hearth. Mal had to struggle to climb into his chair, given his diminutive stature.
Rowan leaned forward, her black eyes peering intensely at Magnus. “Are you feeling…better?” Her tone was steeped in accusation. The real question she was asking was “Am I going to have to use the other end of my swords?”
Slowly opening his eyes, he looked over at the Ghille woman. “Much, thank you.” Fighting against the pull of his heavenly seat, he managed to sit upright. “Now Ms. Rowan, you were-”
“Roseceae,” She interjected.
“It’s not Ms. Rowan. My grove name is Roseceae.”
Magnus shot her a frustrated look. “Fine, Ms. Roseceae. You were going to give me a brief history lesson?”
She paused, unsure of what to say. “What was the last thing that happened before you left?”
“Well the Revolt has broken out a week or so prior. They had one a few surprise battles. Minor skirmishes. “ He frowned. It felt so odd to describe what felt like yesterday as ancient history. “I was enjoying a short vacation from the Unseen Eye, relaxing here in the archipelago, working on research. Then, out of the blue, I received a summons from the Council of Magekings.” His chair began to feel less comforting and he fidgeted in his seat.
Hawthorn was on the edge of the rough stool she had taken, eyes fixed on Magnus as he spoke. “What happened next? ” Her voice was a low, reverent whisper.
Mal, who was sitting crosslegged on his towering chair, chimed in with the utmost sincerity, “A bunch of old guys made him time traveled and he got shot?”
Hawthorn spun her gaze to the Kobold, starring daggers. “Malagog Grindergulch, if you say one more word, I swear I will-”
Rowan cleared her throat, and both of her companions instantly clammed up. She turned back to Magnus. “Please, go on.”
“Actually,”the mage said sheepishly, “ The hairless rat is mostly correct. First mistake: Magekings aren’t just old men. They’re just the most powerful mages. Age, gender…none of that mattered.”
Mal beamed with pride, sticking his black tongue out at Hawthorn. She rolled here eyes, then returned her focus to the story. “So they sent you here, as some kind of fail safe measure?” Hawthorn asked, marveling at the story.
“Actually, that’s the second error. The Magekings wanted me to join the war effort, marching off valiantly to a grizzly death. I decided it might be better to sit this one out, so I used an experimental spell to skip one hundred years. Though it looks like I may have made an error somewhere…” Magnus bit his lip, eyes glazing over as he became lost in thought. “After than, I ended up here, with my lovely welcome party.”
The room was still as the grave. Hawthorn was the first to speak, her voice thin and strained. “So…so you didn’t come to save us?”
Still pondering the complexities of time travel, Magnus simply muttered, “Nope.”
The hopeful light in her eyes grew dimmer, but she kept talking, louder. “But you’re the Chronolord!”
Rowan looked at her sister, her face barely maintained its practiced neutral pose. “Sis…”
Hawthorn ignored her sister, her tone and tempo rising. “You’re suppose to be the one who saves us! Do you know what you left us with?”
“Sis, please…” Rowan repeated, her voice more soothing and sympathetic.
By this point, the young Ghille was yelling. “We lost everything! And you were the one hope we had!”
A knot grew in Magnus’ stomach. “Listen, kid. I’m sorry. But I’m not-”
Hawthorn cut him off. “Save it.” She stood, knocking the stool to the ground. It clattered loudly against the wood floor. She stormed off, heaving the front door open. She stopped to look back at her sister. “You were right to leave, Row. I’m sorry.” And with that, she slammed the door behind her.
Magnus looked around, eyes wide. “Well, is anyone else very upset I am not their magical savior.”
Mal almost raised his hand, but Rowan stared him down, forcing him to curl into a ball on his chair.
“Magnus, you’re a genuine ass,”Rowan said, her voice brimming with the cold contempt he had felt earlier. “You were the one piece of hope that girl had. You could have at least let her down easy.”
“Let her down from what?” He cried out, raising his defenses. “Nobody has told me what is going on!”
Rowan sighed. “A lot has happened. But I guess we’ll start from where you left us.”
Rowan stood up and walked to hearth, looking over the trinkets littering it. “As the Revolt went on, the Magekings began to take back ground. It looked like, for a while, the Revolt would be crushed. Then, out of the blue, the Iron Army struck with a surprise attack. In one evening, they had killed almost all of the Magekings.”
Magnus was incredulous. “You mean to tell me that a bunch of bumpkin farmers with muskets and pitchforks killed them?”
She shook her head. “That’s just it. That was the night everything changed. They went from a ragtag militia of farmers to…to something else. Something powerful! Firearms powerful enough to mow down waves of enemies. War machines powered by steam, near impervious to damage.”
“Those that escaped were hunted like dogs. Those that resisted were killed. Those foolish enough to surrender were given public trials and executed by steaming.” She did her best to keep her voice calm, but it wavered from time to time.
Magnus took a minute to mull this over before speaking. “Why do you Ghille care about the Magekings, anyway? You’ve never been one to care about the politics of humans.”
“We care because…”she said, trailing off. She took a deep breath, choosing her words carefully. “We care because the Magekings created a legacy of fear. And we bear the weight of that legacy today.”
“I don’t understand,” Magnus said.
“Ever since the Revolt, Kalosians have view magic as a blight: a force that corrupts all it touches. Not just human mages. Any magical creature.” She finally turned back from the fireplace. Her eyes were welling with tears. “Even us. In the decades after the war, resentment for our kind grew. We were persecuted, torture, and even killed. Entire Groves were burned to “cleanse the land”. All because of you and your kind.”
Magnus tried to speak, but he knew anything he said would make things worse. He bit his tongue and sat, waiting for more.
“In the end, the Parliament finally decided they had had enough of us, passing laws making our very existence illegal. We were driven off the mainland, forced to find refuge here in the Archipelago.” Rowan wipes the shimmering trails that began trailing from the corners of her eyes. “After us, humans turned on their own, pushing the “uncivilized” off the island to live with us here. So here we are…an island nation of abominations and refugees.”
Magnus did his best to speak without invoking her wrath. “But why did Hawthorn think I was some kind of… Chronolord?”
Rowan looked at the door. “She believes it because it’s how we were raised. A long time ago, ancestors from our Grove found your lab while trying to settle after being forced off the mainland. The place had been ransacked, probably by the Iron Army, searching for mages in hiding. In the wreckage, though, they found your note and some of your work.”
She moved closer to Magnus, making him tense slightly. “You have to understand. This was a time when our people had no hope. And here you were, a brilliant mage, outside the reach of the Republic, destined to return. My ancestors needed you. They needed someone to believe in. After a while, that hope grew into something like a cult, praising you as some kind of magic messiah.”
“And that’s why she was here?” Magnus asked. “She was waiting for me to show up and save the world?”
The treewoman nodded. “She’s the last of the cult to remain. Everyone else gave up hope or died waiting.” A bittersweet smirk crossed her lips. “I belong to the first group.”
Magnus pulled himself out of his chair. “Listen, I’m really sorry that I’m not what you guys wanted. But…what do you want me to do?”
“I can’t tell you what to do. You’re your own man.” Her voice was still cold, but softer. “You’re in a world where your very existence is illegal and everyone you ever knew or loved is centuries dead. I honestly don’t know what’s best for you.” She gestured to Mal, who nodded and hopped off of his perch. The two of them went to the door. As she opened the door, she looked back at Magnus. “I really wish I could help you more, but I have my own crew to worry about.” With that, she left.
Mal hopped through the door, then peeked his head back in through the threshold. “Oh, by the way…sorry for shooting you and everything.” His ears drooped down, like a dog who had been scolded.
Magnus said nothing, waving him on in absolution.
The door shut. He was alone. Completely alone.
If you are reading this, I can only assume that you have the skill and prowess to disarm and circumvent the many traps between my home and this secret, underground laboratory. Either that, or you have stepped over more than your fair share of corpses to get here. In either case, I suppose congratulations are in order.
You may be asking why I am not there, offering you these fondest of regards while you rob me blind and ruin years upon years of my toil. Or you may be too busy shoving my magical knick-knacks into your pockets to care. Either way, I’ll tell you. I am currently too busy defying the forces of time and space, on a trek to a time better suited to my needs.
You’ve already stop reading, haven’t you? I know it’s hard, but can you please try to stop rifling through my things long enough to appreciate the magnitude of my accomplishment? I have told Man’s oldest foe, Time itself, exactly where to stick its hourglass. While only an instant will pass for me, 100 years shall pass in the world.
Even from years in the past, I can tell you are losing interest. Fine then. You can go back to ransacking my various treasures, but please leave me something. I mean, we’re all friends here, aren’t we?
-A note found in the abandoned laboratory of Magnus Black
Discovered 723 years after the fall of the Magekings
Magnus had never been shot before. As the metal slug tore through his body, burrowing through muscle and organ, all he could do was let out a surprised gasp and collapse to his knees. Clutching the wound in his stomach, he gaped like a fish out of water, struggling both to speak and to avoid blacking out.
As the seconds ticked by, the numbness of shock was replaced with a searing pain. The mage found his voice quickly, letting out a piercing cry of pain that reverberated off the cold, stone walls. Writhing in agony, he toppled over, curled tightly with his temple on the hard floor.
A thin, cracking voice spoke from the opposite side of the room. “You saw it, right? He came right out of nowhere! That’s self defense!” There was a tremble of nervous fear.
The next voice was softer, like a whisper through the branches of a tree. At the same time, it had a sturdiness and a strength to it, as well as a tinge of anger. “Gods Above, Mal. What did you do?”
“You’ve killed him, you dolt! Oh merciful Heavens, you killed him!” a desperate voice cried out, hysterical with shock and grief.
Magnus strained his eyes, trying to part the haze in his vision. Slowly, his attackers came into vision. One was a small creature that looks like a cross between a hairless canine and a human. Its head, legs, and tail looked remarkably similar to a dog, but its hands were human and it walked upright. This particular beast was wearing rough, brown trousers and a dapper gray vest. Clutching a smoking flintlock pistol in his right hand, his left struggled to wrestle the gun back to its holster. His eyes darted back and forth, touched with mania and fear.
The other assailants stood in stark contrast. One possessed the lithe curves of a woman, while the other’s petite frame hinted that womanhood was around the bend. The more mature of the two was uncovered by any garment, save for the two epees dangling from belts crossed over her hips. The youth was draped in small chains, some adorned with ticking circular pendants or hourglasses, and had a small leather satchel slung over her shoulder. The elder’s skin was coarse and gray, marked by countless thin bands down her torso and limbs. Leaves radiated on both sides of her green tresses, making a verdant waterfall down her back. Her younger friend’s skin had rugged scales of bark split by furrows showing the pale fibers beneath. Both has eyes which were black, wit a sheen liked polished jet. The only exceptions to their perfect female form were their feet, which looked like the spanning roots of a tree.
Magnus struggled to climb off the floor, but his arms gave way and crumbled back to the floor painfully. “Gah! By the Redeemer, I swear I will murder you all! I will snap all of your bones, gouge your eyes out, flay your skin, and salt your-” His words caught in his throat as the pain grew worse, like a creature fighting to dig its way of of his innards. Breathing shallow and slow, the pain and his rage subsided. “Now, which one you is going to help me up?”
Immediately, the younger woman clad in chains rushed to his side. “Hold on, Chronolord! I’ll save you!” Reaching into her satchel, she pulled out a simple green bottle with cork stopper in it.
Magnus couldn’t help staring at the bottle. “Wait, that looks familiar. Is that my-”
With a loud pop, his would-be savior pulled the cork from the container and pours its contents on the hole in his stomach. Instantly, bubbles began to form on his cloak, eating away at the fabric, then beginning to gnaw at his flesh.
A wail of anguish rang out in the tiny laboratory. Magnus’ hands clenched into fists, his back arching as the potion burned his now exposed skin. The arboreal beauty kneeling over him looked on, in horror.
The two other looked at each other, hers an expression of amusement, his an look of abject terror. It was the elder ghille who stepped forward now, her long, slender fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt of a sword.
The kobold barked up. “Rowan! Are you nuts? He said he was going to skin us!” Shaking like a leaf, the awkward beast took a step and outstretched his hand, beckoning his companion to return to the safety of the shadows.
“The I guess it’s good I don’t have skin?” she shot back, her voice soft but with a tinge of levity to it. The treewoman knelt by him, stroking his clammy brow with her hands, a mixture of rough texture and tender motion. “My name is Rowan. You’re going to be okay.” She turned to his nurse-turned-tormentor. “What did you do to him, Hawthorn?”
Hawthorn shot back, her tone jagged and cutting. “I didn’t mean to hurt him, Row!” She lowered her eyes, her voice growing sheepish. “I just…I must have grabbed the wrong vial.” Blinking back tears, she reached into her bag once more and pulled out a blue bottle. As she poured out the contents onto his sizzling wound, his body began to grow vague, its lines blurring. In a matter of seconds, his entire torso was invisible.
Rowan was struggling not to laugh. “I think that might be the wrong one, Sis.” Hawthorn stared daggers at her sister.
Magnus spoke up. “Please, stop killing me and pouring random potions on me. My healing potions are all in white containers.” Invisible acid continued to dissolve his midsection, making him grit his teeth, struggling speak. “Use the white one!”
The young ghille rummaged through her pack until she finally found the curing potion. Cautiously, she unstopped the pale bottle and poured it over the phantom wound. The liquid washed over him, outlining his invisible form. Even though he couldn’t see it, Magnus could feel his flesh mending: muscle knitting itself back together, organs resuming function, and skin sealing shut. With a contented sigh, he collapsed back onto the floor.
Stillness settled over the lab, and all eyes were on Magnus. Finally, the kobold chimed in. “So, we didn’t kill him then?”
Hawthorn let our a frustrated growl, viscous tears of sap dripping from the corners of her eyes. “Shut up, you little rat!” The empty curing potion whizzed at Mal’s head, shattering on the wall a few inches to the right. Yelping, he scampered behind Rowan’s legs.
Rowan shot a stern look at her sister. “Mal isn’t completely to blame.” Her voice lightened . “The important thing is he’s alive.”
Nodding, Hawthorn wiped the tears from her cheek, leaving shining trails over her bark. As Magnus struggled to sit up, she was quick to coddle him, pulling him to her bosom. “I’m so glad you’re alright, Magnus! I was worried I’d ruined everything.”
Crushed to her rough frame, Magnus struggled to speak. “Wh-what do you mean? How do you know my name?”
She laughed, a quick burst of pure disbelief. “Because you’re Magnus Black! You’re the Chronolord himself!”
Now it was Magnus’ turn to laugh, a small chuckle of apprehension and confusion. He paused, waiting for a punchline. “Oh wait…you’re actually serious? Wow, okay then.” He turned to Rowan. “You’re not crazy too, are you?”
Rowan’s features were blank, impossible to read. “Are you Magnus Black?”
“Yes, I’m Magnus Black. I’m also Chairmen of the Council of Theoretical Magic at the Academy of the Opened Eye. And even more people known me as “That Brilliant Jackass”. But I have never, ever been known as a Chronomaster or-”
“Chronolord,” Hawthorn interjected, immediately looking away in embarrassment.
“…or whatever,” Magnus concluded, voice dripping with irritation.
Rowan’s eyes were wide, and her mouth took a second to find its words. “So you are the Chronolord…” She stepped forward, kneeling beside Hawthorn. The two joined hands. “You’ve finally returned to save us all.”
Magnus clenched his teeth in frustration. “Save you from what, pray tell?”
Hawthorn clutched him tighter, almost choking him. “From humans! From machines! From the Spirit of Steel!” Beaming with hope and joy, she rocked back and forth on her knees as she inadvertently strangled her savior.
Magnus’ expression grew dire. He pushed the young girl away, then rose slowly to his feet. “The Revolt? The Magekings haven’t crushed it yet?” Magnus could almost feel the ragged hemp of the noose around his neck.
Hawthorn and Rowan shot each other a glance. Both tried to speak, but stopped, searching for the best wording.
It was Mal who answered him, his innocent, chirping tone only making the words cut twice as deep. “Magekings? They’re all dead.”
A hollow formed in Magnus’s invisible stomach. The world seemed to drop away, leaving him weightless in free fall.
“When?” was all he could manage to utter.
“Over a thousand years go.”
With those words, Magnus hit the bottom. The emotional impact left him breathless. He ran his hands through his hair, staring blankly into space.
Noticing the look desperation in his eyes, Hawthorn stood up and took Magnus’ hands, squeezing them gently. “But it’s okay, Chronolord! You don’t need them. You-”
His tone was quiet and eerily deadpan. “Tell me what happened.”
Hawthorn was unnerved. “W-what do you mean?”
“Tell me everything that happened since I left.”
Rowan moved close to her sister, placing her hands on Hawthorn’s shoulders and pulling her out of Magnus’ reach. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to-”
Magnus snapped at the girl’s hand. “Tell me what happened to the damn Magekings!” Grabbing her wrist, he wrenched her out of her sister’s grasp. “Tell me everything!”
In the blink of an eye, Magnus was on the floor, the center of his forehead throbbing in pain. Rowan stood over him, eyes gleaming, gripping one of her swords. The butt of the sword had the faintest trickle of blood. A matching trail was forming down his nose.
“You do not touch her.” Her voice was a harsh midnight wind, chilling his blood. “You want to know what happened while you were gone so badly?” Her sword slide into its scabbard, smooth and fluid. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how magic died.”
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to visit my new writing blog (or Wrog as I have come to call it). I’m going to take a moment to formally lay out a few things.
I’m planning on updating this ever Wednesday, biweekly. It might not always be the same story, but the titles will be clearly laid out so you won’t get confused. I know it might seem like a cop out, not continuing a story through to the end, but I wanted to pad myself against writers block so I can make deadlines.
Why am I so worried about deadlines? Because if I fail to meet a deadline, my dear friend and taskmaster Christo will give me a dare/punishment I must complete and post in the place of writing. Knowing him, I can only assume it will be dreadful. But my biggest problem is not following through on stories, so I need the extra push.
I welcome open criticism. Be honest. Be brutal, if need be. I am doing this to hone my writing.
Once again, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.
Without a doubt, the Iron Revolt marks the turning point in Kalosian history. What was once a realm ruled by fear and held in the clutches of the cruel and wizened became a haven for reason and democracy. After ages of oppression under the rule of the Magekings, men and women rose up, using the very tools of their subjugation to strike down their tormentors. From the blood of that terrible war, a tree of prosperity has bloomed.
Even today, The Spirit of Steel lives on. Our republic is a beacon of learning and will to all. Races like the Kobold, once lost in the mire of barbarism, have seen our light. No longer content to wallow in lifestyle of the Unlearned, they too have taken the reins of their own destiny and march toward progress.
Yet, we must never forget where we came from. While the Revolt is over a thousand years past, the blight of magic still infests our republic. Be they mages or beasts of inherent magic, these vermin skulk in our shadows, waiting. Remember the price your forefathers paid for your freedom from the arcane. Remember the Iron Revolt.
–An excerpt from Caeden Caul’s “Histories of Kalos”
Published 1,000 years after the fall of the Magekings
Magnus’ hands trembled as he inspected the letter. There was no mistaking the mark: a crown, clutched in the claws of a dragon. This was from the Circle of Magekings. His mouth suddenly felt dry, and his unkempt coal hair grew damp from the beads of sweat forming on his brow. The dim light of the dying fire cast ominous shadows over the thin, almost gaunt man. The sharp angles of his face, which normally beamed confidence and pride, was marred by lines of doubt and fear. He stood there in the cold, dark, windowless laboratory, holding the letter in his reedy, shaking fingers.
“Nine Hells, ” he muttered, tossing the letter onto his desk. Erupting in a string of melancholy curses, the sullen mage ran his hands through his unruly black mane, smoothing in back. He spoke to himself, an obvious tremor in his voice. “This is bad. This is very, very bad.” Magnus knew it could only be one thing.
The skirmishes with the commoners had erupted into a full blown war. The serfs had risen up, using arms of steel, black powder, and steam to strike back at their masters. Caught completely off guard both by the swiftness and the ruthlessness of the rebellion, a great deal of the forces in service to the Magekings had been killed. It only made sense that those forces would need to be replenished. He was being summoned.
Magnus sighed. His woe was swiftly distilling into a simmering indignation. He snatched up the letter, tearing the seal and pulling the sheet from within. “Magnus Black,” he read, his tone steeped in umbrage, “in recognition of your achievements as chairmen of the Council of Theoretical Magic for the Academy of the Opened Eye, you have been selected to serve in the…the Arcane Guard.”
The words caught in his throat. To serve in the Arcane Guard was a prestigious honor. A very short lived honor, but an honor, to be sure.
“Be advised that this summons is compulsory. Any attempt to circumvent service in the Arcane Guard is grounds for execution. Congratulations. Signed, Roderick Derrow, Minister of War of the Circle of Magekings.”
Magnus clutched his knotting stomach with one hand. Crumpling the summons in the other, he cast it into the dying embers of his fireplace. Its edges gradually turned to streaks of black and red, until it bloomed into a blossom of fire. There was only a sliver of satisfaction as the flame began to wither into a husk of ash.
With a growl of frustrated and helpless fury, Magnus swept a pile of books from his desk to the floor. He grabbed an empty flask and flung it against the far wall of his spartan laboratory. The glass shattered, the sharp report amplified by the cold, bare stone walls. Standing and toppling his chair, he raged: screaming curses, shaking bookshelves, striking tables. Only after his sanctuary was in total disarray did his anger subside. Slowly, he righted his chair and slumped into it. In a tone of helplessness, he lamented.
“It’s not fair. They can’t send me off to die. I’m too young! I’ve got too much left to discover!” His eyes were cast down to the floor. He saw his journals and logs, the tomes he had poured so much of his life into. “So much research. I just need more time…”
A notion sparked to life in his mind. It was desperate. It was dangerous. But what other choice did he have?
The mage quickly grabbed the books he had knocked off his desk. In a flurry of pages, he began searching, thumbing through all the theory and academic and intellectual foundation he had laid in his short but illustrious career at the Open Eye.
“A potion to transmute lead to a fire that only consumes mutton? No.” He licked his thumb, turning the page. “Wands to teleport any object inside any being in the known universe? No!” His pace quickened as his desperation grew.
He scoured every page, every line, for hours upon hours. Biting his lip in frustration, he began to grumble to himself. “It has to be here. No…not there. Maybe here?” Grabbing new books, throwing the old into the corner of his lab, Magnus grew more and more agitated until he let out a roar and slammed the book in hand on the desk. “Damn it! Damn it all, damn the Magekings, and damn Roderick rutting Derrow!” Lost in hopelessness, he slammed the journal on the edge of the table over and over, breaking its spine. “I’m going to be killed by my own disorder!” He let go of the book, letting it fall to the surface of the desk with a loud, resounding thump. With a deep breath, he spoke in a low, defeated voice. “I guess I should have made a spell to find other spells.” He chuckled bitterly to himself.
Then, as he looked at the book he had just violently thrashed, he saw it. A manic grin spread over his face: the spell that might save his life. The absurdity of the situation was too much for his weary nerves and he broke into a fit of laughter, tinged with both hope and apprehension. It was going to be very dangerous let alone difficult to actually perform, if it could be performed at all. He would have to work quickly. If he didn’t report to the Circle of the Magekings by tomorrow, they would surely come for him.
There wasn’t a moment to lose. Not yet.