The Last Magus

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An old enemy...

Being a Sunday Joe decided on a lazy day and tried to rest, his sleep had been so interrupted by the clamour in his head, the marching band were back hammering out another military tattoo; silently Joe wished he could turn off whatever it was he had turned on if only so he could sleep. Joe had to admit though he felt a new found confidence, something he had never really felt before. It all still sounded so utterly insane he could do any of this though. Draco meanwhile had fully uncovered from his immateriality spell having first transformed himself into a creature the size of a large house cat, he now lay curled up on Joe’s living room rug in front of the brightly burning fire. His golden skin reflected the firelight like a disco glitter ball and the light flickered as he breathed. Joe sat facing the dancing flames fingering the five golden coins that were still clenched in his hand.

“Draco? If I can change any metal into gold I could make myself incredibly wealthy.”

“Yes magus you could but I’m afraid there is a drawback. Look at the coins you hold…notice anything about them?”

Joe held up each coin in turn rotating it between his fingers slowly. He saw five golden coins, intricately carved designs in the gold and a hole through the centre...otherwise nothing unusual. “No…” he finally said, “nothing I can see. Why do you ask?”

“Look again magus…each coin is identical to the others, not just similar but absolutely identical. With small numbers of coins this wouldn’t be important but having a large cache might cause questions to be asked.”

“Ah...yes I see what you mean…” Joe now noticed small imperfections in the carving that were duplicated on every coin, “I guess it’s like printing banknotes with the same serial number on every note. Spend the notes in small quantities and no one will be any the wiser, but lay down a pile of notes and you get the police paying a visit…”

“Yes…whoever these police you mention are. Besides the more you use that particular spell at any one time, the less value you will get for each item and the more exertion the spell will require. It takes only a small amount of mana to perform the transformation the first time. Small quantities also require small mana amounts and you are not yet developed enough to be able to handle large quantities of mana.”

“Oh so I can’t turn on the coin presses then?…I have to do it in small batches right?”

“Yes…you could create maybe five or ten such coins each month without losing value or draining yourself unnecessarily. What were the words for the spell?” Draco looked up curious to see Joe’s reaction.

“Oh that’s easy they were…” Joe stopped, like the fire-lighting spell, the words were on the tip of his tongue he was sure but he just couldn’t remember them. “…they were…” Joe now screwed up his face wrinkling his forehead in intense concentration. “No...I guess they’ve gone! Odd that.”

“Exactly!” Draco smiled triumphantly, “the incantations use up the mana energy and will temporarily erase themselves from your mind. They need only time and quiet to recharge, the more powerful the spell I’m afraid the longer the recharge time.”

Joe looked dismayed, “Really it works like that?”

“Unless you have the incantations written down in front of you and re-memorise them from a spell book, it will usually take a day or more to recharge even the most simple of spells. Cantrips like your firelight are the very basic spells used by novice and neophyte mages as they acquire power, they recharge slightly quicker and use significantly smaller amounts of mana.”

“Oh…yes I think I see. That’s kind of a bugger if I want to do some really big spells though…” again Joe’s imagination pictured the bank manager screaming as he immolated.

“Not really because the really big spells, as you call them, require a lot of time to memorise and acquire mana to use. The bigger the spell the more dangerous a mishap can be too. You could write your spells onto scrolls and cast your spells from them. The mana is then contained in the scroll but you still require the ability to cast the spell to create the scroll…and the scroll will of course disintegrate to nothing after you use it.”

“Oh…”

“But as you become more adept at magic and your skill improves so does your recovery time, memory capacity and the sheer amount of mana you can manipulate at once. A high level magus will remember a cantrip within an hour though it would be unlikely he’d use it.”

“So you’re saying I’ll get better with practise.”

“Exactly magus.”

“Like the New York cabbie who when asked how to get to Carnegie Hall answered, practise, practise, practise!” Joe gave a little laugh but Draco just looked blank. “Sorry Carnegie Hall is a music venue for concerts…it’s just a joke Draco.”

“Yes magus…”

“By the way if you and me are going to be a team together could you use my name please? All this magus stuff might be very respectful but it makes me a little uncomfortable you know. So I’ll call you Draco instead of dragon, you call me Joe instead of magus…OK?”

“Yes magus…I’m sorry Joe, I shall try to remember that. Incidentally which school of magic do you think you will specialise in?”

“School? Of magic? I don’t follow you…”

“Magic is or was divided into six schools…Let me see if I remember them all.” Joe smiled at Draco’s expression, if he had had fingers he would have been counting off on them. “Elemental magic is used for spells using the four elements of air, earth, water and fire…your firelight for instance is an elemental cantrip. Then there is Crafting that is for the creation of magical objects…”

“Like?”

“Wands, rods, staves, weapons, armour, scrolls anything really can be made magical. Crafting magic is the magic that binds the magical effects to the item. Crafting is also capable of recharging those items when they are used.”

“Oh you mean like creating a real cloak of invisibility? I can do that?”

“With enough practise and time. Then there’s Natural magic which uses the forms of nature and life…that transmute spell is from the natural school because nothing is created it merely changes from one form to another. You will also find minor healing spells in the natural school that can heal injury or hurt you take, cure diseases and poisons.”

“OK cool, you said minor healing, mages can’t heal themselves then?”

“Only in small part, if you need major healing then you require the use of a priest with his spells from the Gods themselves.”

Joe gulped rather loudly, “I hate to tell you this but our modern priests can’t do any spells either.”

“But their powers are derived from the Gods…magus are you sure of this?”

“Pretty sure, there may be some odd exceptions but pretty much no religious healing…sorry!”

“Your world is looking bleaker by the instant…where was I? Yes, then you have Death magic, that school draw their power from the astral and ethereal planes.”

“Astral and ethereal planes?”

“The realms of the dead, the universe is divided into planes of reality. Your plane, the prime material plane, is surrounded by the Astral and the ethereal.”

“Surrounded?”

“Like the layers of one of those vegetables with the many layers to its skin?”

“Oh Onions…yeah I see.”

“There is your plane then the ethereal wrapped around it and the astral wrapped around that. By drawing power from those other planes you get powerful spells. But due to the nature of those planes the spells relate to creating undead to do your bidding.”

“Oh so you mean I could create a zombie to go get me a pizza?”

“Yes…whatever pizza is? Or golems to guard your treasury, golems are animated statues they have limited mental ability so can follow simple commands. Or there are skeletons to fight your enemies, cheap to make and easily acquired from the enemy they defeat. There are many more undead types. The higher your power the greater the undead you can summon.”

“Oh so all those stories of vampires and ghouls and such are all true? I could get a real life interview with a vampire…”

“The more powerful the undead the more dangerous they are magus, they are not something to be taken lightly. I have always tried to shy away from the death school. Magic has a taste to me and death magic always tastes of ashes and bitter things. You can also summon creatures...demons.”

“Seriously? Why would I want that?”

“The darker dimensions have access to much information your world cannot gain through normal means. Time for example is not so constant and does not exist in the darker dimensions as it does here. So dark dimension dwellers can in a limited fashion look into the future.”

“Ah so I could do an Interview with Beelzebub and then win the lottery…nice!”

“It may be that this frivolous attitude is part of your character magus but demons are also not to be taken lightly. You must be extra vigilant when you do anything with demonic forces, they will try to break your control and be released. Something you must never ever allow to happen. Plus you must be aware of the way they will try to twist the truth to their own ends. Concentration is the key when dealing with a summons, you must be able to concentrate the entire time, one slip could release it…and that is no minor thing when you summon some of the more powerful entities.”

“Wow! So pinch of salt with everything one of those buggers tells you…go on.”

“There are drawbacks to all spells magus. But death magic has some of the highest consequences, let me see Death magic ah yes…then there’s the school of Illusion where you can create very realistic looking things that are purely light shows, designed to deceive and divert the attention of the viewer.”

“And…that’s five schools what about the sixth?”

“The sixth is not a school I would care to teach you magus. If you wish to use the sixth school to any major degree then you and I must part company. The sixth is known as the school of the black arts and is comprised of spells that many would consider altogether evil! The highest power spells are extremely destructive and in the wrong hands can be utterly devastating. Curses and plagues are probably the best examples. Being a gold dragon I am not overly conversant, or indeed at all comfortable, with that school. But like all things, evil has its place in the order of things, without evil how would we know good?”

Joe’s eyebrow raised querulously, “Being a gold dragon makes a difference?”

“Gold dragons magus are essentially good dragons, we seek to help and nurture humans, guide you along the paths of your lives. We are sadly not the most powerful dragons, powerful yes but not the most powerful…for raw unmoderated power you should get a Red dragon but they can be the most temperamental too!” Joe gulped a mouthful of coffee audibly. “In their defence I would say they are not exactly evil, they are also not exactly good either. A red dragon is usually extremely self serving, conceited and wilful, they may kill you as soon as help you. Black dragons are the most adept at the sixth school because they are entirely evil and would probably kill you as soon as look at you unless you are able to dominate them completely.”

“I see…and do any of these other dragons exist?”

Draco looked deeply thoughtful at this point, “I cannot feel them magus…any of them! But that does not mean they are all gone. They may be asleep as I was...”

“But you’re saying I could be the last magus and you could be the last dragon…what a pair we make!”

“Yes magus, it may be a lonely life ahead…” Draco looked wistful for a long time, Joe felt like he should be putting his arm around his new companion and saying “we’ve still got each other Draco mate!” but it sounded so twee as to be sickening. Instead Joe coughed, Draco brought his attention back to Joe’s face.

“Do I have to specialise? I mean must I choose a particular school?”

“No, there are benefits to belonging to a certain school; the spells of that school are easier to memorise or need less mana. At the same time the spells of its opposite school become harder and more expensive in mana. But you can just consider yourself outside of the six schools if you wish and…generalise.”

“And what happens then?”

“You are not aligned with any school so all six are open to you, you can cast spells from any school you wish! There was one very Great Magus millennia ago, before I went to sleep, who was the greatest magus ever! All six schools revered him as their leader, yet he was bound to none of them, they just bowed to his superior powers.”

“What happened to him?”

“He died…” Draco looked wistful again as if remembering the old magus.

Joe coughed again, he felt like he had just asked a widow if her husband was around at the man’s own funeral. “I’m sorry for the loss Draco, was he a friend of yours?”

“A friend? No not really magus, I was a young dragon at that point…but he was revered far and wide as a very great magus. A completely natural talent at manipulating mana far beyond anything even the masters of the six schools could achieve.” Draco again looked into the distance, Joe almost felt he saw a tear forming in Draco’s eye. Draco continued sorrowfully, “When he died it was a very great loss, the world of magic suffered a wound that by the look of things it may have never recovered from…”

“How err…how did he…well…”

“How did he die? He cast a very great spell as he battled with a very ancient evil, a demon from the time before.”

“The time before?”

“Your universe was…” Draco looked thoughtfully at Joe as if trying to chose the right words, “not the first! This demon came from the darkness that existed before your universe came into being.”

“Oh!”

“The Great Magus died battling it. They spent many days locked in combat together then the magus spent every ounce of his life force and mana into one very powerful spell.”

“He could do that?”

“Yes, as can you if you really need to…but you pay a very great price for such an act. If you commit every last part of your being then there is no energy to keep you well…living.”

“And he didn’t…he gave it all?”

“Every last ounce, so without the energy to sustain his life…he died.”

“And what happened to the demon?”

“The demon?” Draco looked deeply worried now as if he feared he had said too much too soon, “the demon…sleeps.”

“You mean the magus destroyed it?”

“No…I mean it sleeps. At some point it may awaken and without magic I fear your world will become his toy to play with as he wishes.”

“Shit! That sounds really bad.”

“It is worse than that I fear magus, if the Great Magus was correct this demon wanted to destroy the entire universe…and will stop at nothing less.”

Joe let out a long drawn out “Fuck me!” then he remembered himself and blushed slightly, “…excuse me I try not to swear but there’s just so much to swear at you know? I’ll have to tell you about life today, so much to wind you up and make you mad. So err any idea when this demon will awaken? I mean are we talking days, weeks, months or not in my lifetime?”

“No, the Great Magus’ spell was very powerful but unsure of duration, he wrapped a tremendous amount of mana and energy into that one spell. So even he did not know how long the beast might stay asleep; he hoped for eternal sleep. There is also the fact of who he compelled to sleep…demons such as this one do not require sleep or rest, they just are!”

“I see did the demon have a name?”

“Magus…something you must understand when dealing with magic…names have a power of their own, so dare not try to name him, the fact that you utter his name can have consequences.”

“What consequences?”

“Saying his name could actually be construed as an act of summons and awaken him. On the day the Great Magus died he said he hoped the creature would stay asleep forever but he hoped at least until a point when magic had reached a level of power that could destroy it. The magus admitted he put the thing to sleep because he wasn’t powerful enough to destroy it himself. Unfortunately, looking at your world now and how it seems to have forgotten magic entirely, I fear the Great Magus may have been mistaken…”

“Oh great!” Joe looked at his feet as he drew a shuddering breath and let it out slowly. “So let me see if I’ve got all this straight. At some time in the future, we aren’t sure when…could be very soon, could be a long time, this creature…this demon that we can’t name, because it might actually trigger his awakening, might awaken…and when it does it will try to destroy the entire universe and everything in it!” Draco nodded solemnly, Joe nodded back and continued, “OK good so far…and the only thing that can stop him from doing this act of wanton destruction is probably magic in quantities that even your Great Magus couldn’t muster…” Draco nodded again, “in a world that has basically given up on magic of any type! So…the only one currently with any magic at all, and thus the only one with the remotest chance of beating it…is ME!” Another solemn nod from Draco, Joe flushed and wiped his hand across his forehead, “…Wow! Like no pressure there then! I’ll burn his ass before I transmute him to a gold statue. Why I eat demon’s for breakfast! Two on weekends alone.”

“That’s the spirit magus, but you forget I am here to help and train you so you may become a match for it…if it awakens in your lifetime.”

“Bud if you knew the way my luck runs, it is a stone cold one hundred percent freaking certainty that thing will choose to wake up in my lifetime! In fact it’ll probably try to wake up about…now!” Joe looked around his front room as if expecting there to be a knock at the door with a great demon asking him to step outside.

“If that were true magus I and maybe you would feel his presence.”

“Like a disturbance in the force you mean?”

“The force?”

“Never mind another poor joke about a film I saw once. Listen I’m going to go out for a while tomorrow will you be alright here on your own…” Joe stopped himself he couldn’t believe he was asking a dragon if he’d be OK left in his house alone. “…or do you want to change into some sort of golden dog and come with me?”

“That would depend where we were going magus…”

“Well you see I’m dead broke, no money at all. My bank manager wrote me this letter I got yesterday to tell me I was flat busted, so I need money…hence the coins.” Joe held out his flat palm with the five gold coins on it as if in confirmation. “There’s also the fact that now…well I’ve got a gold dragon to feed and house. What do dragons like to eat any way?”

“Well the odd virgin princess wouldn’t go amiss…” Joe looked shocked and then puzzled, Draco just smiled sweetly and licked his lips. “Sorry magus a little joke on my part, two can play at that game! I gave up virgin princesses when they stopped being virgins but they did so get stuck between my teeth! Honestly…I am capable of eating anything you wish me to, I prefer meat…raw and bloody if I can get it.”

“OK…meat? Hmm visit to the butchers then, any idea what sort of quantity?”

“Well the more the better I suppose…back before my sleep I would eat maybe five sheep a day it was a kind of tribute the villagers paid for my good will.”

“Five sheep! Like five WHOLE sheep? Forget the butchers then I’ll need a slaughterhouse! I’d better get a lot for these coins too then or you’ll be the one bankrupting me!”

Draco looked almost hurt, “Sorry magus it was for my protection of a whole village…I could probably stand to lose some weight anyway you know.”

Joe smiled back the thought of a dragon on a diet plan…“No I’m sorry Draco it is not your fault I’m broke, I did that all by myself. I’m going to try and see a friend of mine who collects rare coins and see what he thinks of these transmuted washers. By the way are these things likely to spontaneously change back at all?”

“No magus with that spell the change is permanent that was why I asked for something you wouldn’t want to have again.”

“Ah got you! Phew! That’s a relief, I could just see my friend cancelling his cheque because he got a handful of steel washers.”

Joe rested in front of the fire enjoying his quiet Sunday, occasionally chatting with Draco, but most of the time just using the time to relax his mind and find the peaceful place inside that he meditated in. Life just had this way it seemed of giving Joe lemons and he was getting sick of lemonade.


Next morning, after another flash of the firelight spell to summon another fire and two mugs of the last of his coffee, in a mix that could have removed varnish…Joe actually felt better than he ever had. The pounding in his head was paralysingly intense, it was as if the marching band had been joined by the rest of its regiment, but he was also becoming acclimated to it as it only hurt now when he needed to use the mana he was accumulating. Surprisingly his other aches and pains had subsided, maybe it was the pounding migraine taking over but he just didn’t seem to feel his usual pain. He got up and went to his internal front door, he opened it and selected a rather old and worn grey sleeveless leather jacket from his makeshift coat rack. The jacket had seen better days and he knew it, but it was his favourite jacket, his first real leather jacket. Joe slipped on the jacket without any complaint, that was unusual in itself as stretching his arms out to the side usually triggered bolts of pain that left him whimpering. With the jacket on he looked back into the room.

“Coming Draco or do you want to stay here by the fire in the warm?”

“I shall come with you magus if you wish me to.”

“Well, I could do with the company but...if you are coming then you’ll need to transform into some other shape. Nobody takes a cat for a walk...even a golden one!”

Draco concentrated for a moment and mouthed a single word of magic. Joe heard the angelic choir in his mind and blinked as Draco changed shape into a large golden retriever with shaggy long hair, every strand of his coat shone like liquid metal that made Draco shimmer in the light.

“Nice and understated as ever!” Joe nodded, “never had a dog before...with all the reflective gold you’re sure going to draw crowds! By the way why when you work magic do I hear angels singing yet I get hobnail boots and marching bands?”

“That is just the way it is magus, we dragons are magic! When a dragon is born it is a great event, mana is released in a burst in huge amounts…”

“Oh OK…” Joe nodded of course that made sense. “Alright now Draco listen, while we are out I want you to stay silent. It is one thing to have a golden dog, but to have a shining gold dog that talks…I’d rather we didn’t attract that much attention OK?”

“Yes magus, since we are linked now and you have accepted me we could talk with our minds.”

“Say what? Oh you mean telepathy, we can do that can we?”

“Of course magus.” Draco spoke in Joe’s mind clear as a bell Joe heard him above the thudding clamour, without a single sound being heard above the tick of his wall clock. Joe raised an eyebrow in astonishment. “If you want to talk back to me you need merely think what you wish to say and I shall hear it as you are hearing me now.”

“Now that’s a neat trick to use.” Joe thought with a smile.

“Yes magus…and a useful one too when silence is needed; with practise it is also possible to use it over great distances.”

“Neat…Err so you can read my thoughts then? I mean while you’re tuning into my head like this?”
“Yes magus most assuredly.”

“Ah...well listen, I don’t mean to be rude but there are certain thoughts I think should be private. So unless we’re talking to one another like this...in a conversation or I specifically think about you…well I’d like to keep my thoughts just to me.”

“Of course magus whatever you say, I wouldn’t dare to intrude anyway.”

“OK good we’ve got that sorted. Are we all ready to go? Do I need a leash by any chance?” Draco looked up at Joe with a gaze that Joe could only describe as upset.

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