Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Rajhu's Lamp

Far away, there is a place where magic lives. Where it governs the lives and destinies of every living thing. Controlled by masters of the great magic realms, the world is observed, and watched over by ancient practitioners from the Djinn, the Sorcerers, and the Goluems…

Most mysterious of the Magic Tribes, however, are the Wishcharmers. Untrusted by all, it is unclear whether this shadowy group stands ready to save the world, or destroy it…



The Wishcharmer Saga



Rajhu’s Lamp

How long have you had this piece?’
The old man looked up, taking his gaze off the gleaming gold form of the lamp. His pale eyes wandered for a moment, finally settling on Rajhu as he tipped the lamp this way and that, letting the metal catch the light in different ways.
Huh… Oh, I… I can’t remember, to be truthful…’
Rajhu smiled.
A crowd had gathered around his booth. The bystanders were watching with rapped attention as he surveyed the discarded relics they brought. It was a national roadshow. A place where people brought things, for the hope they might be worth some grand sum, and whisk them away from their dreary existence, planting them firmly in the earth of the opulent.
It was a place of hope, and of desperation.
Rajhu nodded, looking at the lamp again. He brought a hand back, scrubbing the fake moustache that was firmly glued to his upper lip. It was itching, but there was simply nothing to be done about it, at this point. Too many people had seen him today. Too many of the other inspectors had chatted with him, and discussed his methodology.
Now, he would have to suffer a little longer. Soon, the day would end, and he could take what he had gained, and be done with it. Looking at the lamp, he smiled again. Such a find could take him far. If only he could convince this man to part with it.
A simple con, but an effective one.
I can’t recall where I picked it up,’ the old man was saying. He rubbed his white beard and shook his head. ‘It’s as if I’ve always had it. I suppose I was just curious. Like all these folks, I wondered if it was just junk, or… or something more…’
Something more, indeed! Rajhu let himself laugh. He reached out, patting the man on the shoulder and setting the lamp down on the little table in front of him.
A wonder, indeed, sir. It’s a magnificent piece.’
I’ve always thought so…’
These intricate carvings, you see?’ he pointed at the widest part of the lamp. ‘They’re quite nice, correct?’
Yes, very beautiful.’
And sadly, they are the undoing of this whole thing!’
I’m sorry?’
Oh, think nothing of it… It’s a sad example, but one I see more often than not. Interesting pieces, wonderful workmanship… but forgeries, usually.’ He bobbled his head, leaning across the small table. ‘You know, there are a lot of untrustworthy people running about Ideji, these days. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been swindled. It’s a time of con men and forgers, my friend. Like this lamp, they make you believe in something, but it’s nothing more than an empty vessel.’
The old man’s shoulders sagged. ‘A forgery… It’s strange… I’ve always had it with me, as long as I can remember. I felt it was important. Like, like it held some secret to my life, and my purpose.’
Perhaps sentimental value is important, my friend,’ Rajhu smiled. ‘But, in the times we live in, sentiment weighs you down. It’s no good. Waste of time.’ He patted the lamp, looking at the intricate carvings in the thick, heavy, gold.
And besides all this,’ he frowned. ‘The whole thing is actually lead. Not gold…’
The old man stared at him in disbelief. He couldn’t blame him. It was a far-fetched idea. The weight was right, the feel was right. It was obviously gold. But Rajhu couldn’t let him continue to believe that.
Rajhu nodded. ‘Mmhmm. Afraid so. It’s a very naughty process. They weave components of fool’s gold into boiling lead. Diabolical. Charlatans. Bleeding false alchemists.’
And so…’ the man slumped. ‘It is worthless.’
Rajhu leaned back in his chair abruptly. ‘To you, yes. But to me?’ He smiled. ‘It’s a very interesting piece, sir… I… I would like to buy it from you, if you are willing. These are troubled times, you know. Gold is more useful than lead, wouldn’t you say?’
The man nodded, but looked unconvinced. Sentiment. That was what held him back. Sentiment had robbed Rajhu of many good finds in the past. He was insistent that today would not be a repeat of such things.
I would offer you… fifteen gold Flank for the piece, sir. It’s a good solid price,’ he added, bobbling his head.
Fifteen?’ the man wondered.
He wasn’t sold.
Because it interests me, and I’d like to track down the scoundrels that made it…’ Rajhu checked his purse. He hadn’t much money left. The day had seen him run this ploy a few times. He had gained several worthwhile properties… but had run out nearly all of his gold.
I would go as high as twenty-five.’ He winced as he said the words. That would end it, for sure. He couldn’t make a higher offer than that, and if the man gave in, he would be without money. He still hadn’t eaten today…
Twenty-five gold?’ the man laughed, his lips curling into a tentative smile.
It’s a very interesting piece, as I’ve said.’
The man rubbed at his beard, considering. Looking up, he nodded slowly, extending his hand. ‘These are troubled times, indeed. Gold is more important than sentiment. Yes?’
Rajhu sighed in relief, letting himself smile as well. ‘Too right, sir… Too right!’

The column of guards marched past, their spears barley wavering as they moved. Their loose tan pants ruffled in the evening breeze, but Rajhu had his eyes on their black breastplates, and the gleaming scimitars at their hips. The guardsmen of king Serafa were not to be trifled with. And Rajhu had trifled, indeed.
He snaked his way into an alley, the sandstone buildings rising up on either side of him. The sun may have been setting, but it was still hot. That was the problem with this country. It was always hot outside. And if it wasn’t, it was far too cold. Night was the only relief from the inhuman heat, and day was the only escape from the frigid cold.
Grabbing the large bag that hung over his shoulder, he groped desperately, until his hands wrapped around the shape of the lamp. The solid gold, ancient, lamp. He still couldn’t believe his little confidence scam had turned out such a wonder. With this prize, things would change for him. He reached up to his face and peeled away the bushy moustache. Relief washed over him as the appliance fell away. He scratched his lip, and sighed openly.
It had been a good day.
The sound of marching soldiers echoed through the streets, and Rajhu picked up his pace, weaving through the alleys as fast as his feet would carry him. It was late, and soon the city gates would close. If he had any hope for his future, he needed to be out of the city before that happened.
Skidding around a corner, the alleyway opened up, revealing a wide street, lined on both sides with open shop faces. Men and women still mulled about, but the scene was far from what it would be in the morning, or afternoon.
The clang of metal on metal rang out above half-hearted calls for people to come see this or that, to buy now, while prices were low. It drummed above all of this, and Rajhu’s eyes settled onto the form of a young man, slaving away over red metal and anvil.
Smiling, Rajhu hurried forward, walking up to the lad and ruffling his tidy brown hair.
The boy jerked backward, looking up with anger and alarm. His features softened when he realised who it was.
Oh, it’s you…’
Good evening to you, too, Will.’
The boy wiped his brow, drawing sweat, and soot across his already dirty face. His complexion was sullied by the day’s work, but Rajhu knew the boy to be very fair. Much fairer than his own people from the mountains and valleys of Ohmi. Will was a child of the north countries. Rajhu didn’t remember their names, but knew they existed. Will was an orphan of them, as Rajhu was of his own country.
I have this!’ Rajhu insisted, digging in his bag and producing the gold lamp.
Will stopped his work again and looked at the thing, his eyes going wide.
With such an amount of gold, you won’t have to work anymore. We can get out of this dreadful country and go somewhere nice.’
Put it away!’ Will insisted, striding forward and pushing the lamp hastily back into Rajhu’s satchel. ‘Who’d you con this off of, anyway?’
Rajhu frowned. ‘I paid the man, Will.’
Yeah… you gave him a pittance, Raj. It’s not honest. What I do here…’ he opened his arms, then let them fall to his sides. ‘It’s honest…’
And you make the finest swords in the land, Will. A true testament to the art of Smithing. But this isn’t where you belong. You’re no apprentice Blacksmith. You’re a master! A swordsman!
And I’m not a con man, Raj… Listen, I know we’ve been through a lot, but I just can’t deal with this conning business. That’s why I got the job here in the first place. So we could earn some honest money.’
We don’t need honest money, Will! We need money. Period. How do you think the King gained his riches? I guarantee you, it wasn’t honestly. So we take a little from dishonest people. I pay them a part of the worth, and they are happier for it.’
But when does it end?’
Tonight! Tonight it ends. Will, you are my only friend, yeah? Tonight, we are finally rich men. Tonight, we are freemen! Now, let’s start living like it!’
Will smiled. ‘Freemen, hey? Okay, I’m not gonna lie, I like the sound of that.’
Exactly, my boy! Exactly! We can do whatever we want!’
Will walked past the forge, folding his hands across his chest. ‘So… we could go to the north countries?’
Of course!’
Try and find my parents?’
Will, I’m your friend. I would be honoured to help you find them.’
Could we… start our own country?’
Rajhu smiled. ‘It’s been a dream of mine for as long as I’ve been alive. You know that!’
Can we call the country Willtopia?’
Rajhu sagged. ‘That is honestly the worst name I have ever heard.’
Will laughed. ‘I thought it was pretty good!’
There was a sudden commotion somewhere behind him, and Rajhu heard someone calling out. Turning, he could see the column of soldiers walking through the marketplace. The Captain at the head of the group pointed toward Rajhu, his scimitar drawn.
Stop there, thief!’
We can talk about names and such later. Right now, we need to be getting out of the city.’
Will’s shoulders fell. ‘What have you done now, Raj?’
He scrunched up his face, bobbling his head. ‘I may have taken the King for a walk. I may have told him I was his lost son. I may have told him that my Mother was sick, and dying. I may have told him I needed… two thousand Flank. He might have given it to me…’
You have been busy!’ Will smiled.
The column of soldiers rushed forward, falling on them in a moment. Will kicked out, catching the Captain in the leg; he sputtered a curse, and crashed to the ground.
A spear darted out, and Raj stepped to the side as it whistled past his face. He grabbed the shaft and pulled it free from the hands of his attacker, ramming the butt into his face. Blood spurted from the man’s nose, and he fell backward, just as Raj rammed the back of the spear into his breastplate, sending him sprawling to the ground.
More soldiers rushed in, and as they did, the Captain climbed to his feet, growling as he brandished his scimitar. He whirled, turning to face Raj, his teeth bared. He raised his sword stepping forward. The blade came down, but before it could cleave Raj’s skull in two, Will stepped between them, his own sword raised. The width of the blade took the impact, and he pushed back, parrying the blow.
The Captain cursed, swinging again, but Will stepped; then brought his sword up, the flat slamming into the side of the Captain’s head. He stumbled back, and Will moved again. His sword flashed, and the Captain barked. Metal impacted metal, and Raj saw the man’s scimitar clatter to the sandy ground.
Will drove the pommel of his weapon into the man’s face and he, like his sword, fell to the ground, unmoving.
Spear men moved in, and Will turned. He batted an attack away with his blade, then slashed upward, clipping the arm of the attacker. The guard stumbled back, and Will charged, bowling over the man, as Rajhu smiled, darting through the crowd of stunned soldiers. Before they could completely register what had happened, Will and Raj were at a full run.
A cry of rage rose up from their ranks, but it was lost to Rajhu as he and Will darted around a corner and immediately began to descend a narrow set of stone stairs. Behind them, Raj glimpsed the trailing attackers, but they burst free from the stairwell onto even ground, and disappeared behind yet another sharp corner.
They ran in spurts, nearly for a half of an hour. At long last, Rajhu saw the gates to the mighty city. Two massive wooden doors that raised half the height of the stone walls. The city was known for being near impossible to penetrate, and almost harder to escape - if the need arose.
Made it!’ Will panted, coming to a stop beside Rajhu. ‘With time to spare, too! They haven’t even started to close the gates, yet!’
As he spoke the words, a great grinding noise split the air. Rajhu gave the boy a whithering glance, and darted forward.
How was I supposed to know they’d start closing them?’ Will protested. ‘Hey, you cannot blame me for this!’
They sprinted, and Rajhu felt his legs giving renewed protest. His body was tired, his mind was tired. But they were so incredibly close. Beyond those gates lay freedom the likes of which he hadn’t known in years. The likes of which Will had probably never experienced.
Above them, there were cries from the gatehouse. Raj smiled. They were closing on the gates now. The doors still stood half way open.
An arrow whizzed by him, stabbing into the ground. He cursed.
They’re a little upset, Will!’ he called. ‘I think I’ve angered the whole city this time!’
More arrows rained down, but they were crossing under the gatehouse now. Rajhu laughed as they darted through the closing gates, out of the city, and into the open flat expanse beyond. The last flecks of sunlight were fading as the gates closed behind them. Above, there was a host of cursing. He knew they were looking for them, waiting for a chance to pin them both to the ground with their arrows. After such an escape, Raj wouldn’t allow himself such an ignominious end. Silently, he lead Will away from the gatehouse. They stated in the shadow of the city walls, until they were sure the guardsmen had given up. Then they broke away from the wall and started their long journey away from the city, and into the vast unknown.
You almost got me killed!’ Will growled, through a smile, hitting Raj hard in the arm.
I got us out…’ he smiled. ‘Will… We are freemen, now!’ He laughed, twirling around as he kicked up the sand at his feet. ‘I knew today was auspicious! What a turn of luck! And it all stems from my crowning achievement…’ He reached into his bag, pulling free the golden lamp. ‘My lamp… The golden wonder! The signal of our future, Will. This… This is just the beginning, my friend.’
Will laughed. ‘You’re crazy, Raj…’
Rajhu stopped, peering at his friend through the darkness. The moon burst light onto the desert through the veil of a pale cloud.
But of course… I’m Rajhu Heroh. You must have heard of me. Dashing, powerful, the master of a thousand charms and disciplines…’
And a very lucky con man, too!’
Rajhu laughed. ‘Maybe you’re right…’ he conceded, bobbling his head. ‘But tonight, Will. I am Raj. King of the world!’
Will laughed, and Rajhu kissed the lamp delicately before stowing it back in his bag. Tonight was a new beginning. Tonight, truly, he was standing on the edge of greatness. He had left the squalor and the failure behind. His past was dead in the city behind them. Now, the future was as bright as gold.
Rajhu was sure. There was nothing stopping them, now.
The old man clutched his chest as power flooded through his body. He screamed as it arced back on itself and intensified. Somehow, he recognised this power. As it washed over him, memories returned, along with strength. Flesh fell away from him, as well as bones and blood and mortality. He floated off the ground, looking around at the city that hung over him.
Several ghostly beings encircled him, their eyes observing with displeasure. As he floated there, he realised their names, and their purposes.
Ferro,’ a large ghostly man growled. He folded arms of chorded muscle across his chest. Scars adorned his face, and inky black hair was pulled back from his eyes into a tight ponytail.
You have been sentenced to five hundred years of penance, for the murder of your charge. Your sentence is now at an end. How do you plead?’
Ferro looked up at the men and women who surrounded him. Something sparked in his mind at their words.
Murder of my… charge?’ A smile crept across his face, and he rubbed at his beard. ‘Djinn council… At last you free me from my hell. You return my memory to me, and now, I know why there was a burden of sorrow through these last five hundred years… I plead guilty. I ask your forgiveness.’
The man with the ponytail nodded. ‘Forgiveness, we grant to you.’
Ferro smiled. ‘Then, why have you not returned me to my complete power? Forgiveness dictates that sin is forgotten. Where is my magic? I feel it, but part of it is gone. Missing from my reach!’
There has been… an incident…’ a woman said, cautiously.
Incident?’ Ferro snarled.
This day… Do you not remember what you did?’ a powerful man with a large turban asked.
What did I do? I…’ The memory flashed in Ferro’s mind. ‘My lamp!’
Because of greed that still infects your heart, you sold your lamp for gold, Ferro. With it went half of your magic.’
But I was swindled! I didn’t remember the import of the lamp!’
Yet you sold it, nonetheless!’
Hebak, please! There must be something you can do!’
The muscular Djinn sighed, looking down at Ferro. ‘Your magic now belongs to the man who owns the lamp. He has split your power. Because of this, you, are no longer Djinn. You are less. A half breed. Magi. This is what you have become.’
A Wishcharmer!’ Ferro barked. ‘Do you realise what you have done? You’ve let me fall from grace, from Djinn to Magi… But worse, you’ve allowed a Wishcharmer to be created!’
You have allowed it to happen yourself, Ferro!’ Hebak growled. ‘Perhaps now, you may see the import of these humans. Perhaps now, you will truly know why we punished you.’
This is sacrilege! You have no right to allow this to happen! We must stop him! Kill the wretch. I can absorb his power, regain what I’ve lost…’
We hold no blame in this, nor any part in its consequence… It is what you sold that makes you what you are. What you gave away that allowed the Wishcharmer to form. Greed, like before, is still your undoing.’
You will return what is mine, Hebak! You will, or I will reign terror on these people. A Wishcharmer will be the least of your worries! I swear it!’
You are no longer our concern. The sorcerers have been made aware of you. Do not think blood will change what has transpired.’
I will kill this man! The one who took my lamp! His blood will be on your hands!’
Do you not remember who we are, Ferro?’ Hebak asked. ‘We are Djinn! We know of things beyond time!’ His voice thundered around Ferro, shaking the city all around him.
I want what is mine!’ he snapped.
What once was yours, has allowed for something else. The Djinn see him. We are aware of him. And we may yet have use for him… Do not cross us by seeking his death, Ferro. Such an act would bring about a war that you, in your eternities, have not seen the likes of. Not since the founding of the universe has there been such a war. But this man is tied to such a fate. This, we have foreseen. Do not test the will of the Djinn. Even we must answer to higher powers…’
Curse you all! I will have my power back! I swear to you! If it takes every eternity I have left, I will have it back! And I will make you, and that human-child suffer for this affront! I swear it!’
Hebak nodded. ‘Then we shall soon see, what the universe can bear. If war is what you create, Ferro… We shall see what heroes the great power of the universe raises to oppose you…’
There was a sudden brilliant green flash, and then, Ferros was alone. Comforted in the dark, only by his mission. Warmed in the cold, only by his hatred.

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