The Last Magus

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The passing of the Great Magus...

The old magus’ arms fell to his sides, he was spent and he knew it, he’d used it all. Had it been worth it? “That stupid obstinate creature if he had only answered a few simple questions.” Feeling intensely weary the magus propped himself on his staff to avoid falling flat on his face, he still had some dignity left; even if every spark of energy inside him was spent. He breathed in short gasping breaths desperate to cling on to whatever life remained to him. His remaining time would be short, he’d given his all! When dealing with magic the fundamental rule of giving your all was a genuine do and die event.

“Life is mana and mana is life.” The old man spoke in a hoarse whisper, “without one we do not possess the other!” He turned his dream like gaze to his staff and with a desperate half glazed stare he hugged it to himself. Perhaps hoping to eke out some last remnant of mana to keep himself alive. The staff could save him, but the staff like himself was empty. He sank to his knees with a groan, he was exhausted “How many days have I been here?” No time for food or drink, no chance for anything lest his concentration break and that cursed creature get out. He was hungry, all those days surviving on mana alone...yes hunger, it felt like his stomach was a yawning void. He tried to get to his feet again but instead just folded over backwards as he collapsed with an anguish filled groan. The staff skittered from his outstretched hand lying just out of reach. He wriggled to try and reach it but every movement, even the movement of breathing burned him with excruciating pain. The other wizards rushed to his side as they saw him fall. They gathered round him in various states of alarm, and awed admiration. But even with their life acquired magic skills they could see the old man was spent and beyond their aid.

“Great magus,” The High Wizard of elemental magic spoke, finally breaking the silence, his gold and red robes flashed in the sunlight as the cloud finally rolled away. His gestures were elaborate and grandiose, he did everything for show, ever the politician and he needed to secure his succession. If the High Wizard wasn’t the centre of attention then he wanted to know why not? “You have conquered the ancient one this day…an awesome achievement indeed. Your name shall be engraved on the edifice of history itself! I shall commission great statues to your triumph...” The others nodded respectfully, one or two with a sly smirk.

“Silence…you pompous ass!” croaked the old man hoarsely. He had never liked the high wizard, always felt him to be so conceited, so self righteous. “I have…conquered nothing this day.” Every breath clearly hurt him as blood spots broke out on his lower lip and ran from his nostrils, he futilely stretched to reach his precious staff. The Great Druid pulled out a water skin and bent to try and give the old man a drink.

“But Great Magus…” spluttered the High Wizard, “he who shall not be named fell…we all saw him! Now if we can settle the matter of your successor...” The High Wizard scanned the faces of the others for approval. Again the High Wizard was met with nods, he smiled conceitedly.

“But he did not fall in death…numbskull!” the old man croaked again, waving away the Great Druid, water would not save him now, ironically only pure mana would. This time a small trickle of blood coloured his lips. He licked his lip, just for a moment he could taste the faint copper and salt. His eyes were glazing and every breath was becoming too much of an effort. He stared around himself wildly wriggling again he flailed out an arm in desperation. With a desperate cry and a relieved sigh he closed his hand on his staff and tugged it to his chest as a man drowning will grasp anything that floats. If it could only have recharged a little it might save him at the last. “I merely set…the vile creature to sleep…” the Great Magus croaked slowly, pulling the staff tighter to his chest. He closed his eyes silently pleading. He opened a channel within himself to the staff, just some small spark, the merest fragment, anything…let him live! But he met only the cold empty sensation of void! The staff was empty still. With an agonised cry the magus opened his arms again gripping the staff in a clenched palm. Such bitter irony, he was too far gone, the staff would require time to recharge; time he did not and would now never possess. If only he hadn’t spent it all…if only, but what other choice had he had? “Understand” he croaked, his voice breaking and rough, “it took ALL I had to do even that…I spent my remaining life energy!”

The jaws of the other wizards dropped open in stunned shock. Every wizard from the earliest days of their apprenticeship were taught the first fundamental law of magic, the law that must never be broken! One must ALWAYS retain at least a minute amount of mana, “life was mana and mana was life.” Every school had it inscribed above their entrance and in their main halls. Every student intoned the words, each morning as if in prayer. For the Great Magus to make such a primary error and spend everything???

With a deep sigh of resignation the magus’ hand holding the staff relaxed, his end he hoped would be swift, it was almost here. Just don’t let it be painful. He wanted to weep, after all he had done, all his hard work over the previous years, to end like this in the middle of nowhere, flat on his back on a barren mountain top with six avaricious others who would probably dance on his grave as they fought for his title, he wept bitter stinging tears. “Ingrates every one of them.”

“What?” The others shook themselves from their stupor, it had taken several moments to comprehend the old man’s words. They looked at each other in confusion, “Sleep? But magus, why sleep?”

The old man shook his head trying to shake the dark clouds that were filling his vision, just a few more moments let him have that…they needed to know the danger.

“I realised that I…could not beat that foul thing. I…” he coughed violently, his back arching as his body racked with pain, blood and spittle flew in droplets from his lips. His lungs were filling and he was drowning in his own blood. He could feel it, the final seconds of his life were slipping away. He half turned his head to look at the wizards, pleadingly, “I misjudged his strength, I erred...I did not possess the power I needed. I sent him…to sleep...magic stronger than mine is required to defeat him! I never was part of your schools so only a master of all six schools may defeat that thing and even then he will need his powers augmented massively.”

“More powerful than even you? And what’s this about power amplification?” The wizards looked at each other in confusion, the old man must be raving mad, no mortal could match the powers he had demonstrated and what did he mean by amplification? Could they get such amplification? To compare one of them, a master or mistress of their chosen school, to him was to try to compare a candle flame to a forest fire. A master of all six schools was ridiculous too, deep down they hated and envied one another. A warlock of death in the elemental school preposterous! Why even the old man’s staff, that he cradled like a beloved child, was unlike anything they could ever have created.

The Great Druid, head of natural magic, in his flowing green robes finally spoke, he coughed somewhat hesitantly, his voice rather thin as his throat was dry, “Great...Magus how err…how long will the creature sleep?” He wiped his own mouth and lowered the water skin, it had been thirsty work the past few days.

“I hope for all eternity…but I do not know.” The old man’s gaze started to glaze again, his eyes stared unseeing into the distance, the edges were darkening again…it would not be long now! Wait! Was that a figure he could see approaching? Dark, cloaked, yes! He was coming then, it was decided...there would be no reprieve that figure was coming for him. Briefly the old man reflected on what the judgement of his life would be. If only these others knew his history, had he been a good man? He had tried to be, tried to exist in peace with all things, but nobody was perfect! The question hounded him as the dark figure approached step by cautious step, floating above the plateau’s surface. Silently the magus mouthed to the figure “Am I bound for paradise or condemned to perdition?” The darkness spread across his sight further, his world was falling into a black night from which he would not awaken and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. He inhaled a last painful breath, choking on mouthfuls of blood and saliva...Gods that horrid sulphur taste! “Stupid obstinate creature...Now I am tired. Let me rest…” The old man sobbed wearily, he lay his head back and closed his eyes. His breathing eased a little as he breathed out before drawing in one last shuddering breath and letting it go with a hiss, then he lay still. His heart beat its last few slow deliberate beats and then fell silent.

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