The Last Magus

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When a Mage goes to War...

Invisible to the others the dark figure crouched to the old man’s corpse, “It is time. I am sent to bring you…” His voice spoke barely louder than a whisper, but it was a gravelly sonorous voice reminiscent of tombstones grating. The figure extended a hand, his cowl’s sleeve pulled back to reveal nothing more than white skeletal bone. He barely touched the old magus’ body as a glimmering white halo surrounded it and the soul of the Great Magus detached and sat up. He blinked twice, unsure of where he was. Was he dead after all? He looked around himself slowly. His gaze finally fell on the dark figure, he stared into the blackened cowl and sighed.

“So I am dead then...Please do you know where I will go, my Lord? Am I bound for paradise or cursed to damnation?”

“I am not the judge of mortal deeds. I am merely the collector...the decision is not mine to make. It is time, you are to come with me now!”

“Yes my Lord.” Nodded the old man’s spirit as he took hold of death’s hand and stood, together they passed out of the circle of wizards “At least I shan’t be dealing with those imbeciles or tasting that sulphurous tar any more….small mercies I know.” The Magus said looking up expectantly before they both slowly dissolved into nothingness. Only the high warlock of the death school turned his head, shuddering with a sudden chill, he could sense the passage of death’s shadow.

The other wizards were thrown into a blur of confusion, it was as if they suddenly remembered the great magus had yet to name his successor. The wizards therefore first tried to rouse the great magus, they shook him believing him asleep, when he failed to wake, they cast spells of awakening. When those failed the mistress of the crafting school straddled his corpse like a harlot, hitching up her robes in a lewd display of her undergarments and squatted over his chest as she slapped him repeatedly across the face screaming at him to “Wake up! You old bastard!”The Great Druid finally felt for a pulse, finding none he tried channelling some of his own mana into the old man’s corpse, just enough to get him to wake up and name his successor, then he’d take it back and to the devil with the old fool! Of course this too failed so as each of their attempts failed one by one they finally hung their heads in a minute of mock silent solemnity, or perhaps exhaustion. The mistress of the crafting school stood puffing like a steam engine as she nursed her stinging red hand. With some reservations they had to admit he was truly gone...damn him, he should have chosen his successor!

The Great Druid was the last to rise of course, he hung his head in a moment of solemn respect that passed as a brief nod. He surreptitiously passed the mistress of the crafting school one of her handkerchiefs that had slipped from her garter. He tried to choke back his crocodile tears as well as quell his contempt for the others, “My friends...” he choked, it would be a cold day in all nine hells before he would ever refer to these as friends? “He is dead…we shall not see his like again. To use his life force like that was indeed a noble act. One might even say...” he almost choked again as he struggled to say the last word “...heroic.” Four of the other five nodded solemnly they could put on just as good a show as the tree-lover! The High Wizard’s face betrayed a contemptuous sneer, “Heroic? A dead hero and a stupid old fool look a lot alike to me from here!” he said. The mistress of the crafting school wiped her handkerchief near her eye as a stray tear rolled onto her cheek, that concealed piece of onion she had sewn into the handkerchief came in handy sometimes. Lest it be discovered she slipped the hanky quickly back into her garter, her hand still stinging from slapping him. Old fool!

“Let us take him to his tower.” She said eyeing the others suspiciously, “we can entomb him within it.” Make the walls good and thick too so he’ll damn well stay there! She thought to herself. All she’d done for him, all those secret overnight visits, and this was her thanks!“What magic we can summon between us...let us use to protect his body against violation.” Just enough though wouldn’t want to waste it on him! The others nodded quietly, respectfully. “what about his staff though?” She asked the question so casually, her eyes flitting to the staff and filling with avaricious lust. “…it is indeed a powerful device beyond anything we in Crafting possess.” Even on her best days she had never managed to create a device such as the Magus’ staff. She had heard through her reliable sources, spies by any other name, that it could spontaneously recharge just by being left to stand, as a mage might recharge with rest. That was a power she had yet to comprehend, why just a few moments with that staff might reveal to her secrets that could create devices more cunning and more powerful than anything yet seen…but with that staff in her possession, her eyes flashed at the thought, Crafting would indeed become the pre-eminent school. She would be the next great magus and she would make these others pay for their derision of her and her school did they really think all she was good for was recharging their stupid wands? She’d show them, oh yes she’d show them alright!

“His staff?” The Great Druid cocked his head lazily as he turned to look at it lying inert on the ground, he raised an eyebrow as his own vision flashed with avarice. His spies had told him that the staff was a unique wood unknown in this part of the world, wood from a tree that was said to only exist in myths. “That shall of course go with me to my tower…to natural magic where such an item of nature belongs!”

“WHAT?” Each of the others stared at him, taking a step back in amazement, their eyes flashing to the staff before resting back on the Druid. “Like hell!”

“Now hold on a damn minute there…The natural part of that object begins...and ends in the fact it’s made of wood, nothing more! The magic of that staff is obviously an elemental force.” The high wizard’s eyes blazed, the power that staff possessed would reveal the secrets of the universe to him, allow him the power to devastate all who stood against him...these five others for a start! “I’m the logical choice of successor here, no other! The staff will go with me! And I defy any of you to speak against is obvious to even the most thick brained troll there is no serious competitor here!” The High Wizard blustered, gripping his robe lapels, his eyes flaring before closing to narrow slits daring the others to try him.

“And just what in the nine hells makes you think you deserve it?” asked the high warlock in a sibilant hiss. “I seem to recall his last words to you were to call you a pompous ass and a numbskull, even as he died I must say he had deep insight! Numbskull!” The high warlock looked at the staff, oh the power that item possessed, the old man had commanded an old God with it! Just imagine the divinations and summoning he as head of death magic could perform, even the great demon would become his personal slave.

“Yes...yes...he’s right,” joined in the Great Druid pointing a finger and dancing from one foot to the other, “your magic is just rerouted energy...conjurer!” he spat the last word with obvious contempt.Natural magic is about life itself, we wield the very essence of reality. Besides everyone knew I was his favourite…wasn’t it me that offered him water?”

“You were not his favourite...I was!” retorted the High Wizard as he stuck out his tongue. The high warlock spun to face the great druid his eyes closed to menacing slits.

“We cheat and challenge death daily...tree-hugger! The staff is not of this world so should by rights go with me! Go back to your herbs and leave this to those who use serious magic.”

“Challenge death?” The mistress of crafting sneered stepping between them sticking her chin out as if daring the high warlock to hit her, “Digging up corpses to talk to them? And finger painting with chicken guts...positively ghoulish if you ask me. Couldn’t help the old bastard yourself could you though? Couldn’t keep him here until he named his successor could you? That staff is plainly a crafted device, craft created it, so it belongs with crafting and nowhere else!” The mistress then screamed in his face like a demented harpy and backed up towards the staff.

What followed was no more than a squabble really, all six heads of the schools of magic reacted like petulant children fighting over a favoured toy. They began taunting, name calling, insulting one another. In truth the Great Magus had been a unifying force, his mere presence had bound the six separate strands of magic together into a common thread whether they wanted it or not. Now that binding was unravelling fast! Who should possess this staff of ultimate power? And in possessing it which school should become the pre-eminent school of magic? Who indeed should become the next Great Magus?

Their squabble escalated rapidly, the high wizard threw back his arms in an elaborate display and began chanting. Powerful spells started to form on all sides; the threat of the first great mage war was scant moments away. All of their old prejudices resurfaced as their child like taunting and name calling intensified. The mistress of crafting, though possessing only minimal magical power herself, squatted into a defensive half crouch. She started hissing and spitting like an angry cat, raising her hands into devilish claws as her false nails glinted in the sunlight defying anyone to get past her to the staff. One mere scratch from those nails was all she required and these others would all turn tail and run.

To an outside observer it looked absurd. Five old men and one old woman, clearly old enough to know better, acting like children in a school yard dancing around one another taunting and pointing fingers as energy crackled and spat around them in multi coloured rainbows. The Dream Maker, master of the illusion school, instinctively ducked as an argent bolt of lightning streaked through the space occupied by his head mere microseconds before. “My hat!” he screamed as the bolt passed through it, “you’ll pay for that...that was new damn it!” The only one to stay out of the fight was the shadowy master of the black arts school. He wanted the staff true enough but he didn’t need to fight all of them, just the winner would do; and if he lost the fight well...he had agents that could steal the staff for him anyway…whoever won this squabble that staff would still go to the black arts.

Finally the High Warlock, in his robes of the blackest midnight silk, drew back his sleeves and brought out a wicked looking black wand. It was an ancient item from the darkest age of death magic. He sighed before he flicked his wrist and cast his spell...directly into the ground. The mountain top moved, it was as if it tried to shrug itself. The other five were thrown up into the air and came down with a sickening thud seated on their posteriors. Rubbing themselves they looked at him with questioning gazes and no small measure of anger. “A mage war will not serve any of us! We all wish to possess the staff, it is truly an item of awesome power.” He said in another hissing whisper, “However I have another suggestion if you will hear it…”

“What? You’ll summon a zombie hoard to take it by force? Be my guest ghoul!…I’ll incinerate your zombies before they can get a finger to it with just a crook of mine!” scoffed the High Wizard as his fingertips crackled with orange coruscating fire.

“NO!” boomed the High Warlock’s voice, he had never before raised his voice above his sibilant whisper so the sound shocked the others to silence. “I was going to suggest I will give up my claim if you will all do likewise. Then we bury the blasted thing with him! The way I see it we cannot all possess it… to fight over it is pointless, and from what we have witnessed of his power I doubt any of us could actually use it!!” The High Warlock scanned the faces of the others. All of them eyed the staff lustfully, but maybe the High Warlock was right. “I would say we bury it with him then if…IF there is another great magus out there capable of using the thing...somewhere, we find him and let him have the thing. OR WOULD YOU PREFER WE FIGHT IT OUT LIKE CHILDREN!!” his last words were shouted with such power that they echoed back. Falling back again into his sibilant whisper, “Did you not see what he could do? Did you not see the power he was wielding? We are nothing next to him! Each of us would burn to a crisp if we tried to use that staff…it was his and his alone!” The High Warlock thrust a hand at the corpse of the Great Magus accusingly, “Do you think he would permit any other hand to wield it? He prophesied that a successor would come, he wasn’t talking about one of us obviously or he’d have said so more plainly!”

Reluctantly the other five got to their feet, dusting themselves off, maybe the Warlock was right after all. Maybe burying the staff with its creator was a better idea. At least if none of them possessed the staff then they were no worse off. The powers the old man had displayed had been beyond their meagre skills, it would take them a lifetime just to comprehend a fraction of his power. They thus lifted his body with mock reverence, the High Wizard assumed a position at the head of the group, let them do the donkey work he had an election to win! The staff was wrapped in a cloak and they carried the great magus from the field on their shoulders.

Six thousand years have passed since the battle of the great magus and Ghord. The story passed into legend, then legend became myth and myth finally passed into fantasy. The world has changed, belief in magic waned without the great magus’ presence and leadership. The schools fell into bitter bickering isolating themselves against each other as the belief waned further. Then even the last dregs of belief faltered and finally failed completely with each school closing up, seemingly for good! Science became the dominant belief that filled the void left behind. So by now, six millennia later, no one seriously believes magic ever really existed at all.
…and Ghord? He lies entombed in his mountain vault asleep. Still bound by the great magus’ final spell he is unable to wake fully. Buried alive three miles underground, he snores loudly and sleeps in what the great magus hoped would be an eternal rest. The headache from the impact has slowly disappeared, he still bears a huge unsightly lump while his iron horns have grown a patina of rust, but Ghord sleeps still. His chamber is close to the roots of the world so he stirs in his sleep occasionally, like someone under thick blankets in a summer warmth. His movements are felt as earth tremors and quakes. And now, at the last, the magic that bound him is finally starting to weaken…Ghord is close to awakening again!

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