Introduction/The Masked Sorcerer
This world is a vast and majestic place. It is filled with marvelous wonders and many peoples. It’s also filled with many evils, and corruption that touches every corner of the planet. On Descension Day, when magic was introduced, those evils multiplied tenfold. For many years, demons reigned supreme as wielders of the darkest of magics, and technology far superior to anything humans could have ever imagined.
Just when all hope had faded for mankind, a group of warriors stood to oppose the Demon King. They called themselves The Sorcerer’s Brotherhood, and they too had mastered the arts of magic.
The Brotherhood fought the Demon Army using magical spells and incantations that even the king himself had never seen before. After many years of fighting, the Demon King was finally defeated, and it seemed that the demons had retreated back into the dark realm from which they came. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
With no way back to their own world, the demons decided to take the Earth for themselves, and nothing would stop them. But the extent of the damage done against the population forced them to live in smaller groups. The Demon Army was no more, but the demons themselves still proved to be a constant threat to the common people.
In the following decades, the sorcerers who had defeated the Demon King died one after another, leaving behind their legends and the students who studied under them. As the years passed, the secret teachings of magic and sorcery passed with them, down through the generations. After a time of relative peace, sorcerers found that they did not have to be warriors. They could be merchants, doctors, even law enforcers. Some stayed tied to certain towns or countries, while others roamed the world, taking on odd jobs and doing almost anything if the price was right.
Now, over two centuries later, the strange adventures of such a sorcerer serve to once again change the history of the world, as he and his friends travel beyond the unknown and unseen boundaries between life and death.
Spring, 231 A.D.D. Alastair Aladara stood in the lobby of an inn to pay off the room he’d stayed in for the last week. The innkeeper smiled and said, “I have to ask, why do you wear that mask, friend?”
After placing four gold coins down on the counter, Alastair answered, “Haven’t you heard? It’s the new fashion among sorcerers.”
He was sure to make his sarcasm as obvious as possible to the old man. He loved annoying people almost as much as he loved the huge pay from a long job. But before the innkeeper could retort with a snide remark of his own, the door burst open and a young man rushed in.
“I’m looking for the sorcerer that’s been staying here!” he exclaimed in a gasping breath.
Alastair turned to him, “You’re looking at him.”
The man reached out to grab hold of Alastair, “Please sir, Lord Racine asks your assistance with−”
Alastair lifted his hand, “Before that, I should have you know that my services come at a particularly high price.”
He shook his head furiously, “My Lord will gladly pay any price, now please come with me!”
Alastair shrugged, “Just so we’re clear.”
The two of them left the inn and crossed the street to a waiting horse-drawn cart. The servant pulled Alastair toward it, still very much in a hurry. “Please, we must make haste to the Lord’s manor.”
Alastair stopped in the middle of the dirt road that ran through the small town, held out his arm, and pointed at the ground. “If we need to get there fast, then this is be the best way.”
A small black orb appeared at the end of his extended finger. “Vocare Cycle.” The orb shot from his finger and, upon touching the ground, exploded into a cloud of magical aura. A crowd gathered, and all spectators watched in awe and anticipation. When the cloud subsided, a machine that sat on two wheels had appeared.
To the simple people of the backwater town, who'd only seen the most basic of machines, Alastair's motorcycle was a metal behemoth of spectacular proportions.
“This should get us there in no time.” He climbed on and started the engine, making a loud roar that startled the crowd. Then he motioned for the servant to sit on the back end of the seat.
The young man was reluctant, “I don't think I should...”
Alastair patted the seat, assuring him it would be okay.
As he climbed on, Alastair yelled, “Hang on tight!”
The engine roared as the machine blasted down the dirt road, and out of town. After a moment, Alastair turned his head back to see the servant and asked, “You’re not afraid of flying are you?”
The servant clung tight to Alastair's back.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Oh well, doesn’t matter now anyway.” Alastair turned away and looked around as their surroundings flew by at break neck speed, then down at the ground far below. “God I love magic!” He yelled as they drew ever closer to their destination.
In a matter of minutes, they'd reached the end of their journey. Alastair pointed to a large compound off in the distance, “I see Lord Racine's manor. Are you ready to land?”
The servant nodded his head, pressing it even harder into Alastair's back.
Alastair sighed, “Okay then. By the way, just because I said to hang on doesn't mean you can dig your head into my spine. That's a very tender area.”
The motorcycle dropped from the sky, gently landing just outside the gate and then disappeared back into the cloud of aura. The guards at the gate held their spears at the ready; but when they recognized the servant they lowered them again.
The servant grabbed Alastair's sleeve, “We must hurry! The Lord is waiting!”
Alastair smacked the servant's hand, “You really need to stop pulling me.” He then followed behind him for his audience with Lord Racine.
On his way down the hall, Alastair noticed a young, blonde servant woman. Her skin was fair, nearly glowing from the rays of sunlight that shined down on her. Something about her caught his attention, but he wasn't sure what. After a moment, he saw that she had noticed him as well, in fact, she was staring at him. He could handle a typical stare of curiosity, or a look of fear or anger, but there was something about this stare in particular that made him uneasy. Her pale blue eyes seemed to pierce right through his mask—down to his very soul.
“Can I help you Miss?” He asked, pushed by his own curious nature.
She shook her head.
“Then stop staring at me.” Her unwillingness to speak caused a frustration he himself didn't even understand.
She blushed and ran away.
He sighed, and continued on his way, “Stupid.” The only thing Alastair wasn't sure of, was who he was talking about.
The manservant pushed open the large doors, leading Alastair into the audience chamber. At the other side of the room, Lord Racine sat waiting, tapping his foot with impatience.
The servant quickly rushed over to him. “My Lord, I've brought the sorcerer you demanded.”
Racine waved his servant out of the room, “So you are the infamous Masked Sorcerer Alastair.”
Alastair bowed respectfully, “That I am. How may I be of service to you my Lord?”
“I have a job for you sorcerer. I need you to–”
Alastair stopped him, “Before you request my services I must inform you of my price.”
Racine waved his hand, swatting down Alastair's negotiations. “We'll discuss payment after you've done the job. The price is of no concern to me right now.”
Alastair shrugged, “Alright then, what's the job?”
Racine leaned forward, “There is a small town east of here that has been raided by some new kind of demons over the past few months. This town sits on my land, and these raids have made it very hard for the town folk to pay their taxes. The demons come back every few months, and should be coming back in the next day or so. I want you to destroy all of them.”
Alastair raised a concern, “Pardon me, my Lord, but what exactly do you mean when you say a new kind of demon?”
“From what I have heard, they appear to be larger than normal demons, and bonded to some kind of mechanical devices.”
Unknown to Lord Racine, these were not a new kind of demon, but rather demons that had fused machines to their bodies for greater power. A sheltered man such as him wasn't exactly the leading authority when it came to identifying demons.
Now that he fully understood what he was dealing with, Alastair nodded. “Ah, I see. It seems you have a Mecha-demon problem. They travel in large groups and tend to be smarter and much less savage than most other demons. But the mechanical devices they have attached to them are extremely dangerous. You're actually very lucky that the town still exists. Honestly, it's been some time since I've heard of demons operating in such an organized fashion.”
The blood rushed to Racine's face, “I don't care about any of that! Just get out there and make sure they never return!”
Alastair bowed his head again, “Of course, my Lord.” Before exiting the room he turned one last time, “And because of the added circumstances, I will be charging higher rates.”
The doors closed behind him. As he walked down the hall Alastair noticed the same servant woman, still staring at him. He stopped, pointed above her head, and said, “Aquas.” Suddenly, a large amount of water came pouring down on the woman's head, completely soaking her from head to toe. As he continued walking away, he heard a large gasp and stomping in the other direction. He let out a light, somewhat remorseful, chuckle, then left the manor. Summoning his motorcycle, he once again flew off into the sky, this time toward the small town.
It didn't take him long to get to the nearby village, where a group of armed men waited for him. But once he mentioned his job from Lord Racine, their tones changed. Villagers. The common people he was supposed to protect, and yet most of them hated or completely distrusted him. All because he chose a life of magic.
There were no signs of demon activity, so Alastair used his time to gather information and survey the terrain of the town. He found out that the demons kept returning to demand crops to feed their own soldiers. Once the demons took a reasonable portion, they would simply leave. When he found this out, he couldn't help but voice his opinion to the old man who told him.
“Well that's odd.”
“What's that, son?” The man asked.
“It seems to me that after the demons leave, the town still has more than enough to survive on. That just strikes me as strange.”
The old man agreed, “Actually, you're right. The demons aren't really much of a bother, they only take what they need, then disappear. It's Lord Racine's taxes that take what's left. Because he refuses to give us time to make up the difference, we are barely able to feed ourselves. We could deal with one or the other, but not both.”
The news confused Alastair—things just weren't adding up. “So the demons take less than what Racine taxes you? That's rather out of character for them. This just gets more and more peculiar.”
As Alastair continued his investigation, he came to the town's small general store. He walked in and looked around the shelves for the specific red treat that he loved most. When he couldn't find it, he asked the owner. “Excuse me sir, but would you happen to have any apples here?”
The counter worker, a rather grizzly looking old man, sighed and shook his head. “Sorry, but those are a rare treat in this region. We only get them in once every few months, and they go fast.”
Finally, it started to make sense. Alastair smiled, “Your next shipment wouldn't happen to come in tomorrow would it?”
“Yes, that's right. Actually, apples have been even scarcer seeing as they're a demon's favorite snack. I think that's why they only raid us every few months. They come when the apples come.”
Alastair started for the door, “Well, I'm going to have to put a stop to that. And when I've killed the demons, I'd like to have one bushel please.”
The store owner laughed, “You get rid of those demons, and you can have whatever you want!”
Alastair spent the rest of the day in the room Racine provided for him, planning a strategy for the coming fight. He did not sleep that night; he simply sat in front of his fireplace and stared at the flames, like he did every night. The hours passed by quickly until the sun began to rise, and Alastair could hear the far off panic of the town's people.
Off in the distance, a group of six Mecha-demons approached the town. Jumping from roof to roof, Alastair raced toward his pay day. When he reached the demons, he called out to them, “Hey, demons!”
All six of them turned at the same time, puzzled that a human would actually want their attention.
He raised his voice even louder, “Yeah, I'm talking to you! This is normally the part where I say you'd better leave these people alone or I'll have to kill you, but unfortunately, I've been hired to eliminate you entirely. So I'll give you a few seconds to make your peace with whatever demon god you pray to before I obliterate you into dust.”
The head Mecha-demon laughed at him, “You sorcerers think you can tell us what to do. But the demons' time will come again. This world is ours!”
Alastair extended his left hand, “Levare.” All six demons lifted up into the air. “Déleas.” A burst of light shot forth from Alastair's hand, disintegrating the six demons, molecule by molecule. When the light subsided, nothing was left of them. He lowered his hand and let out a sigh, “Well that was rather anticlimactic. Of course if I wanted a fight, I probably shouldn't have finished them so soon.”
He jumped down from the rooftop and caught up to the fleeing villagers. “Good townspeople! You are all safe now, the demons are gone!”
The man from the store shouted back at him, “You only killed six you idiot!”
Alastair jogged next to him, “Exactly how many of them are there?”
The old man couldn't keep up his pace and began to slow down. After a taking a minute to catch his breath, he answered, “Usually, there are twenty of them. I don't know where the others are, and I'm not sticking around to find out.”
Alastair stopped with the old man, and began looking around. “I don't sense any demons nearby.” Something suddenly caught his attention—a feeling of something far away sent a twitch down his spine. He turned in the direction of the manor he came from. “I think I found them.” He held out his hand, “Vocare Mana.”
A dark shadow ball formed over his hand, and a pitch black snake slithered down from it then wrapped itself around Alastair's arm. He let it make its way up to his ear, “Mana, tell me what you and your brother see.”
The snake whispered into Alastair's ear, then pulled away. He gave the serpent a small nod, “Thank you. You may return to Sepa.” The snake slithered back down his arm and into the black sphere.
Alastair looked back up to the store owner, “I think I know where my missing demons went.”
The old man was in shock, “What did it say?”
“She told me her brother saw fourteen Mecha-demons heading toward Racine's manor.”
“What are you going to do?”
Alastair lifted his finger, “Rule number one: A real man protects what's his. If Racine dies, I don't get paid.”
Alastair summoned his motorcycle once again and, before flying away, turned one last time to the old man. “I'll be back for that bushel of apples when I've gotten paid, so don't let them run out until then.”
The sun was high in the sky as Alastair quickly flew back to the manor. The path of destruction the demons left behind made it easy to know exactly where they were going. When he arrived at the gates of the manor, two demons were standing guard. Alastair summoned a spear and dived down, skewering one through the head. Before the second demon could react, Alastair was already casting another spell. “Ignis.” The second demon was immediately engulfed in flames and burned to death in a matter of moments.
Four more demons came running through the gates, but each fell faster than the last. By the time he was finished with them, the bottom half of Alastair's body was soaked in their foul blood. He stood for a moment, counting the number of bodies that lied at his feet. “Six down, eight to go.”
He charged inside down the long, labyrinth like hallways, killing any demons he found along the way. When he rounded a corner, he saw three demons surrounding the servant woman from before. For some reason, he was compelled to save her. He wasn't sure why, but he'd made up his mind that he would find out. Without hesitating, Alastair summoned a second spear and killed two of the demons. The third was unfortunate enough to have his throat ripped out by Alastair's bare hands.
Covered in blood from head to toe by this point, Alastair stood over the young woman with an outstretched hand. “Are you alright?”
She took his hand and stood up, “I'm fine, thank you.” She then immediately wiped the blood off.
Alastair let out a slight laugh, “Sorry about that.” With a snap of his fingers, the blood washed away, and he was as clean as he was when he arrived.
Through the torn sleeve of the servant's blouse, Alastair could see the many old scars on her arm. Reaffirming his prior notions about the kind of man he was working for. Without a word more, he left her and entered the main audience chamber, where the final demon was still massacring the remaining guards, while making his way closer and closer to Racine.
Alastair called out to the demon, “Are you the leader of this band of demons?”
The demon finished off another guard before answering. “I am, and you must be Alastair, the Masked Sorcerer. I've long dreamed of this opportunity.”
Alastair tilted his head to the side, “Really, you've dreamed of the chance to die by my hand? That's strange.”
The demon let out a roar, then flipped a switch on the back of his neck. The machine parts of his body began to energize with a dark aura.
Alastair scoffed at the demon's attempt at a demonstration of power. This in turn, infuriated the beast even further. “Die sorcerer!”
Alastair whispered under his breath, “Not until I've found Adrian.”
He lifted his mask enough to uncover his mouth. “Duratus.” He took in a large breath, and blew out an icy cold wind that froze the demon solid. As he refastened the mask, he walked over to the frozen giant, and flicked him. That small amount of force was more than enough to send a series of cracks over the demon's entire body. After a few seconds, the beast's frozen corpse crumbled under its own weight.
Alastair strolled over to Racine, who was cowering in the corner. “I'll be taking my payment now.”
Racine stood up and yelled at Alastair, “I hired you to kill those damned things! And here you've let them come as far as my manor!”
Racine's tone didn't sit well with Alastair. He knew how to take orders, but criticism was another story. “You hired me to kill the demons that stole from the nearby town. As far as I am concerned, I did my job. Actually, because I did more than the job you hired me for entailed, I believe I should be compensated for my extra work.”
When his money was on the line, the angry Lord found his backbone, “How dare you stand there demanding more money? Leave this manor, and leave this land immediately!”
Alastair cocked his head to the side, cracking every joint in his neck. “Am I to assume that you are refusing to pay me?” He held up two fingers, “Rule number two: A real man's word is more binding than any written contract. If you go back on your word, I will be forced to collect by any means I see fit.”
Racine narrowed his eyes, “Is that a threat, sorcerer?” The remaining guards pointed their spears at Alastair.
He looked around at them, “Are you sure you want to take on the man who just killed over a dozen demons without breaking a sweat? That seems like a foolish decision.”
The guards slowly backed away from him. Racine's knuckles whitened as his grip tightened, his face contorted into a red ball of anger that almost made Alastair laugh. But no matter how angry he was, Racine knew his men were right. Uneager to do so, he called for the blonde female servant to fetch the amount of gold Alastair demanded for his services.
Once he'd paid him, Racine was more than ready for him to leave. “There, you have your payment, now get out of my sight.”
Alastair didn't move. “Actually my Lord, there is the matter of my compensation for coming here and fighting off the extra demons.”
Racine, shaking with rage, stomped his foot on the hard floor, “I'll not have you taking any more of my gold!”
“Then maybe some other kind of payment…” He looked over to the woman whose life he saved earlier.
Racine took notice, and once again donned a fake smile. “I see, so you would like the woman as payment. I didn't realize sorcerers dealt in the slave trade.”
He turned back to the Lord, “Under normal circumstances I don't, but I know good merchandise when I see it.”
“I can't very well just give you one of my servants. How about I sell her to you? I only require some of that gold that I just gave you.”
“It's not really compensation if I have to pay for her, now is it?”
Alastair could tell that his lack of respect was starting to wear on Racine's nerves. What did he care? This particular Lord had made it very clear that they wouldn't be doing business again for some time, even if neither of them said it out loud.
“Your compensation is the discount I'm giving you. After all, she is one of my favorites.”
Racine gave the woman a look that made Alastair's stomach turn. It was a look he knew well—the look of a man who had done sick, terrible things, and reveled in them. “Now, do we have a deal?”
Alastair took a moment to think it over, then removed some of the gold from his payment and handed it over to one of the other servants. He then walked over to the young woman, and took her right hand. “Tell me, what is your name?”
She looked at him as if the mask weren't even there. Again, that same stare. “My name is Isabel. Isabel Robin.”
He put his palm over the back of her hand, “Well Isabel, as of this moment you belong to me.” A purple light emanated from his hands.
Pain shot through Isabel's body as she let out a cry. It only lasted for a few moments, but when he released her hand, three small purple slash marks were left behind.
Alastair pulled a small cloth from his pocket and handed it to her so she could dry her tears. She looked down at her hand, then back up to him. “What did you do to me?”
“I sealed you with my Sorcerer's Mark. Whatever that seal is on is bonded to me by magic until I lift the seal, or die.” He turned back to Racine, “I believe we're done here.”
The Lord snorted in derision, “Good, now leave my land, and never return.”
“Fine by me.” He motioned for Isabel to come with him. She didn't hesitate as he expected; instead she walked by his side without a second thought. It almost surprised him, but he continued walking.
When they left the gates, he summoned his motorcycle. “Come on, we're heading to the next territory.”
“Where are we going?” She asked, knowing next to nothing about the outside world.
“I need to make a stop at one of my guild's branches to make a deposit.”
The mention of a guild made her eyes widen, “So we're going to see a big city?”
Alastair held out his hand, “Hop on, and find out for yourself.”
Isabel climbed on the seat behind him, and held on tight as they took off at full speed.