The Wizard Invasion
Excerpt from the Biblios
The Revelations of Wood
9.1 And thus the rule of angels forever changed.
9.2 He that once defended the balance of light and dark, whose fiery chariot carried light across the sky, was most distraught when the old mother’s light receded.
9.3 Spite conquered His thoughts and verily the seventh angel over the earth had lost himself to the endless Pit.
9.4 The earth was torn and the Pit of the abyss opened.
9.5 Darkness went up out of the pit, like the smoke from a burning furnace. The sun and the air were darkened because of the mark of the Pit.
9.6 The old mother Sol, looking upon her desperate flock, offered unto them her only sun.
9.7 Oblivion offered only darkness.
9.8 Dark and Day were thusly segregated.
9.9 The fifth angel sounded, and the seventh angel, lost amongst the endless abyss, appeared as a star from the sky which had fallen to the earth. The key to the Pit of the abyss was given to him.
9.10 His deceit was set to reveal truth unto the peoples of Earth, before the lifting of the veil.
9.11 The herald angel of the abyss returned as king, with judgment over fate, between oblivion and life beyond.
9.12 His name was the Abysmal King, Attrayer.
The Wizard Invasion
Until the sirens blared, Polari was the safest town in the Dark End. The permanent canopy of twinkling twilight was home to simple folk of blackrock miners and muscow herders. The sky gave everything in the sleepy town a tint of blue. Far from the hustle of steamy cities and mech bases, the people living in this quiet valley would have never known much about the Day if it weren’t for the propaganda from the capital city, Eies.
Across the Dark End of Earth, posters plastered the sides of brick buildings and wrapped around buzzing lampposts, alarming citizens to the horrors threatening their peaceful way of life. Soldiers with powerful mechanix installed in their bodies looked bravely from the posters to share the same dire warning:
Magic was coming.
Maybe not this wake, and maybe not the next, but at any moment the Day could strike with a barrage of magical spells and an army of dragons, basilisks, and tortogres. All it would take was the slightest excuse: one stray mech patrol, one missing Day diplomat, one tiny spark to start the fire.
“No small spell is safe! Report magic use at once!” one poster would say out loud to passersby. All posters offered directions to the nearest anti-magic bunker.
“Don’t be caught under the Day’s spell! Know your emergency safety plan!” said another.
Under Twilight, people of all species—human, alien, and the rest—lived at peace with the notion that the belligerent politics that roused the tempers of the Lords of the Day or the Empress of the Dark End were a distant threat. They walked through the staged anti-magic drills, huddling in bunkers and practicing covering their eyes from incantations as though it was a joke.
Until the sirens blared.
The shrill noise echoed through the grassy valley as the dreaded herald of war arrived without regard to their past indifference. It offered no time to ease into the end of the world, no patience for their dream of neutrality. There was only time to scramble to the closest sheltered nook and hope for the best.
Sheriff Burt Thoone knocked over his coffee as he tore off a dirty apron and locked a burstcannon onto his metallic right arm. The rest of his diner’s patrons huddled beneath their yellow tables. Thoone twitched his handlebar mustache with fear and determination.
“It’s magic, sheriff,” gasped Corbin Dobbs, with sweat streaking down through the blackrock dust on his face. “The Day is coming for us!”
“Let’s hope to the stars it’s not. Y’all stay down and quiet.” Thoone mustered his courage and thundered out the door. “Beth, what do we have?” Thoone mentally whispered to the bionetic communicator installed in his brain. He grimaced as the answer came into his mind.
A bell above the door rang, joining the chorus of blaring horns placed on each corner of Main Street. Polari looked abandoned.
A large wooded park stood at the center of the town with the capital building, bank, and school lined around it. The last of the people still in the streets scrambled out of sight, while Gus, the only junker of a battle bot Polari called its own, stood on a corner looking around like a lost dog. Gus was shaped like a portly bar tender, with a powerful engine in its gut and slumped head on its neckless shoulders. Its rusty humanoid hull was speckled with patriotic stickers like I got your .50 caliber magic right here and Cast a spell on this! stuck onto the bot’s rear end.
Thoone waved his arms at machine.
Gus shrugged. No one had bothered to update the bot with the terrible news.
“Wizard!” yelled Sheriff Thoone over the sirens.
Thoone noticed Gus freeze, just for an instant. The bot had seen war and knew exactly what the warning meant. Spells. Pixie fire. Burnt circuits and melted wires. Its past combat files activated and in an instant the sluggish bot engaged its arsenal of lethal and slightly less lethal weaponry. It stomped across the street as Sheriff Thoone waved it toward the old school ahead of them.
Groandring Elementary had seen better wakes. Its blue paint had been flaking off for years, but it was the popped red balloons and half-hung Welcome Back sign that made the wake of failed celebration all the more tragic.
“Beth, tell me this ain’t true,” Thoone said.
Her charming voice re-entered his mind. “Still no sign of magical discharge, but the wizard was last seen entering the north side of Groandring just before the bell rang. I have the witness and her mother here with me now. Cameras caught a spark of orange behind the school, but the lab can’t confirm it was a spell quite yet.”
“You tell me the instant they can.”
“Our wizard friend must have thought he could sneak through the Twilight without a trace. Didn’t count on a town being out here in the middle of nowhere.”
Thoone glanced at the battle bot beside him. “He probably didn’t count on old Gus either.”
Beth switched the comms to include the rusty battle bot. “Sheriff, one ex-soldier and one busted down battle mech isn’t gonna count for much if we got more than a rank six wizard in there. No offense, Gus. Is there any chance we can just let this Day Ender move on through and let the Empress’ army handle it?”
“Too late for that,” said Thoone. “If the wizard was aiming to move on, he’d have done it. This mage is holed up in the school. We can’t abide by hostage taking or, stars forbid, blood magic.”
“Burn‘em wizard!” Beth swore. “What kind of person hides behind children?”
Thoone starred at the windows to catch any sign of movement. “The Day, that’s who. Keep your eyes tight on Groandring and you let me know if so much as a blade of grass moves funny. What do we have that can see through invisibility capes?”
“Only Chester has the latest eye installs, and he’s out on vacation. I could bring down the goggles, but who knows what type of capes the Day is using these wakes.”
“No, Beth. You stay put. Gus and I are going in to test his metal.”
Beaten metal doors leading into the halls of Groandring creaked as they opened. Gus shuffled in with the sheriff behind his thick metal hull.
“Listen Gus, I know you were decommissioned from being a combat bot before getting left with us, but there is no margin for mistakes here. These folks ain’t built for mage fighting. You and I are Polari’s only line of defense. If we fall here, that wizard could enchant the whole town with no one to slow him down. If his wand hand twitches, you twitch faster, you hear me?”
“Beth, send me and Gus the witness’ sketch. We need to know what we are lookin’ for.”
An image of a wizard in a thick blue coat and furry hood hovered over Gus’ arm. The wizard wore a strange mask and carried a bag of wands on wheels.
“Burn’em Day folk can’t handle the cold,” muttered Thoone. “Why can’t they stick to their sunshine?”
The two officers crept down the hallway as lights flickered and poster boards on the walls rattled in the draft around them. The sheriff pointed to the first classroom.
“Gus, get your eyes in there and have a look.”
Gus looked back at him sheepishly.
“Go on. Get. You’re metal. We can fix you.”
Gus peered into the room with his round metal eyes. The bot pulled back from the cracked door and nodded.
“We got confirmation on the invader,” Thoone said. “Gus, lock in on to the target. We move in nice and easy, but be ready for trouble.”
Thoone peered through a rusted hole in Gus’ metal shielding as the door opened.
Students were huddled below their desks. All the magic drills since birth couldn’t prepare them for what it felt like to be truly under siege. A box of name tags had spilled around the warped linoleum floor. Children shook with fear and some cried as quietly as they could manage, but from below one desk in the back came a stuttered mechanical breathing.
Curled below his desk, Jonothon Wyer was on the edge of tears. The nine-year-old boy had pulled his furry blue hood over a mop of brown hair and the old breathing mask that hugged his face like a foggy fishbowl. He clung to a long metal machine on wheels that had two wires snaking from a flashing panel to disappear under his shirt. His paralysis was the product of a lifetime of anti-Day propaganda. The fragile boy was frightened to the edge of death as the sirens exclaimed the war of magic against machine had finally arrived.
Thoone stepped cautiously into the room.
“Gus, relay your sight back to the station. Beth, ask the witness . . .” He pointed at Jonothon. “Is that the wizard she saw?”
Across the Line, a young girl’s frightened voice replied, “Yes.”
Sheriff Thoone lowered his cannon and frowned. “Burning stars.” His hand shook and his voice cracked with relief. “Thanks, darlin’. Gus, call it off. Let the mayor know it was a false alarm. It was a mistake about the Wyer boy.” Thoone pointed at Jono’s mechanical contraption. “Gus, does that look like a wand carrier to you?”
Gus shook its metal head.
“Me neither.” Thoone sighed. “Come on out, kids. This was all a big misunderstanding.”
After a moment, one student rose and then another until all but Jono had crawled out from beneath their desks. The poor kid’s breaths still came in erratic wheezing. He was likely so afraid his heart might burst altogether.
Thoone leaned down and tried to put on the most sympathetic face he could muster after nearly becoming the epicenter for the next world war.
“Tough way to start off your first wake at school, eh Jono?” Thoone tried to smile, but it came out like a sneer. “The good news is we all get to keep on living.”
Jono’s breath was loud and mechanical as he inhaled and exhaled. The end of the world may have come and went, but he would not be so easily convinced.