Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Sorceress

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

The Sorceress
It was raining in the great city of Geb. Water poured down from the heavens in great drafts, soaking everything. In the dim morning light, the streets glimmered, illuminated by the magic lanterns that dotted the city. Thousands upon thousands of the devices shone out a heavy orange light.
Gwendolyn Freemont watched from her position, high above the city. She saw the people walking slowly, yet with a curious desire to remain dry. They wandered. That’s what it always seemed like. These people she observed simply wandered through their lives. Gwen, on the other hand, had always known what she was to do. Every moment of her life had been scheduled, since the day she was brought here, to Geb.
High above the rest of its inhabitants, Gwen lived in the White Tower. One of the three towers of Geb, each soaring one hundred meters over the city. They were forged by Gwen’s master, and she knew each of them well. But here, in the White Tower, is where she liked to be best. It was situated in the centre of Geb, and therefore, gave her the best view of the city. The best place to watch the people wander.
Turning from the large oval window, Gwen moved back, further into the large circular room. It occupied the entire diameter of the tower. Each level was built in the same fashion, with each level becoming progressively smaller. Here, near the top of the building, the room wasn’t more than five meters across, but it housed a large number of books, a solid oak desk, and a single cupboard, holding her clothes, and Sorcerers Armour.
There was a sudden flash in the centre of the room. Gold light flickered all about, and as it faded, an elderly man replaced the brightness. His wide eyes observed the room, while his thin, long arms patted down his skeletal frame. He wore a white shirt and tie, buried under a black coat that came nearly to his knees. Twitching his nose, all attention was brought to the thin moustache he wore. Long, and waxed, it made him look like an old man with giant antennae growing from his top lip.
‘Salvidi!’ the man declared, throwing his hands out wide.
Gwen smiled, but bowed.
‘My child, my child, there has been a great upheaval in the universe… Things have changed, girl!’ The man spoke in a thick accent, and a sense of dread bore out from his eyes.
Gwen tilted her head to the side. ‘Master Salvidi… slow down. I’m not sure what you’re talking about.’
‘Gwendolyn! You’re a sorceress, now. I expect you to know what I’m talking about before I have even said it! Before even I know what I’m talking about! Come now, you must have felt the disturbance… It split its way through the magic like an axe! Something has happened…’
Gwen brushed back her silky, raven, hair and shook her head. ‘I’ve felt very little, Master. I’ve been observing the people.’
‘Again? By the stars, how much do these people change from day to day?’ He took a few cautious steps toward the window, but waved a hand dismissively before turning back to Gwen.
‘No… It simply won’t do. You will have to go. Find the source of this disturbance and bring it back to me. Only then, will I be able to fix whatever has been broken.’
He snapped his fingers, a cane appearing in his hands instantly. He nodded, twitching his nose. ‘I have a decided. Beyond this, I know that the problem resonates from a man. A man carrying a lamp.’
‘A lamp?’
‘Yes. A lamp which was, only a short time ago, the property of a very dangerous Djinn.’
Gwen furrowed her brow. ‘So, what is it you want me to do?’
Salvadi’s shoulders slumped. He let his cane slip, and he leaned on it heavily. ‘Have I not justa told you? Bring this man and his lamp back to me. A Wishcharmer has been created, my dear! Such a thing, it has completely upset the realm of the Djinn, and it’s ripples are crashing across the universe, affecting all magic! If we are not too careful, if we don’t end this line of Wishcharmers before it sets in… Great evils could awaken from the darkest parts of the universe…’
‘Master, I…’
‘The Salvadi has no time for questions, Gwendolyn! Such is the burden I carry… The greatest Sorcerer in all the world, and not a moment to answer the questions of his only pupil… Be gone! Lest we bring destruction on all these people you love to watch!’
‘None of this makes sense!’ she insisted.
‘Of course it doesn’t!’ Salvadi barked. ‘This is the madness of our world. Whatever Creator forged this universe must have more faith in us than I do. Nothing makes sense anymore, my dear child. Indeed, this Wishcharmer shouldn’t exist. It should be impossible for him to exist, but the Djinn have told me. They have shown him to me!’
‘But I don’t even know what a Wishcharmer is! How am I supposed to bring him to you?’
‘The man is as unawares as you are, Gwendolyn. That is our only advantage!’
‘He doesn’t know he is a… a…’
‘A Wishcharmer. Yes. We must keep it that way, if at all possible. I can’t stress to you enough, my girl, the gravity of this situation. You simply must bring him back to me, before the next full moon, or disaster will surely follow…’
There was no arguing with the man. Not when he was like this. Gwen had never seen her Master in such a state. Through all her tutelage, she had never seen him thus. He was manic, and beyond powerful… But never before had she seen her master… scared.
He set about the room, gathering her things. With a wave of his cane, he sent her armour and clothing whirling through the air, and into an open travel bag.
‘I’ve never heard of a Wishcharmer before…’ she pressed, walking toward the old man, as she clasped her hands behind her back.
‘Of course you haven’t!’ he barked, flicking his cane. The travel bag clasped itself closed and he turned to Gwen, a hard look in his eyes. ‘They are not something we like to talk about… Shadows of the past, my dear…’
‘…Often turn to visions of the future…’ She nodded, completing the old adage. One that was taught to her all her life. She’d had a different understanding of it’s meaning, but perhaps she was mistaken. Perhaps the phrase had meant to speak of this apparent threat. These… Wishcharmers.
Salvadi nodded. ‘Something like that…’ He looked up, his eyes brightening, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth. ‘Now, you will take with you, this cat. Companion, dearest to my heart. He will protect you. He, my dearest Babo…’
His cane snapped through the air once more, and a cat, about the size of an ocelot appeared on the ground before her. It looked up, as if considering her, before snorting, and walking past her, to sit by her bag. It tilted its head to the side, looking at her lazily.
Salvadi leaned closer to Gwen. ‘You should be leaving now… Babo has little time for wastrels.’
‘Oh, not you, my dear… not you! But he will go along with you, to make sure you complete your task. The Sorcerer Council has deemed it necessary. I don’t mind telling you, they’re displeased with the appearance of a Wishcharmer… Displeased, indeed…’
‘But I still don’t have any idea what this man is. Is he really such a danger that we need to find him, to bring him back to the Sorcerer Council?’
‘I should say so, yes… You see… the Wishcharmers are by far, the most dangerous of the Universal Powers… Dangerous, and unpredictable… Hurry, my child. Babo will explain more of it to you on the road. Time is short. We must stop him, my dear. Such a man could upset the delicate peace of the world. You must find him. Stop him. Bring him back. His life spells war in all the stars. And the kind of war he would bring, we are far from ready for…’
The heat, oppressive as it was, hung across the sky. It pressed down on Rajhu as he moved. The heat surged up from the sand, as well, trapping him in a vise. He let out a groan of exhaustion as he looked forward, across the unending expanse of sand dunes.
They were no more than half a day’s journey from Durjen, the city of sand. He wasn’t sure if they were being followed. He’d thought he’d spotted something behind them early in the morning. That had been hours ago, however. The memory seemed distant, and somehow unattainable. Like it were on some tall shelf, and he had no way of reaching it, to study it more closely.
Shifting the weight of his bag, Rajhu looked across to Will, as the younger boy trudged beside him. There had been nothing much the boy had owned in this world, and yet, he’d left it all behind to come with Rajhu on this journey.
‘I am going to die, Will… Leave my corpse for the animals, but bury my lamp somewhere nice…’ He slumped to the ground, but the heat of the sand scorched his bare arms, and he scrambled back onto his wobbling legs.
Koliba!’ he cursed. ‘The desert won’t even let a man die in peace!’
Will stopped in his tracks beside Rajhu. Wearily, he looked the man over, shaking his head. ‘I haven’t seen a road for hours… I thought you said this corridor was used by traders!’
Rajhu rubbed his face, sand rolling over his tanned skin. He shrugged weakly. ‘I was told as much by the merchants… But it’s only a two day journey between Durjen and the border. We will survive… I think.’
‘We’d be lucky to survive another hour, Raj…’
He clicked his tongue. ‘You’re negative, my friend. Very… negative…’
They struggled forward, climbing a tall dune as the heat crashed against them from all sides. Rajhu could feel his insides churning, for water, food, and rest. But none of those things were within his power. The water was nearly all gone, as was the food. Rest couldn’t come, if they hoped to make it to water. No…. As much as he wanted to give up, he couldn’t!
As they crested the top of the dune, the desert fell away into a deep valley. The sand brushed lazily across a stone path that wound it’s way northward, towards cooler climates, and more hospitable countries. Rumbling along this road, a small caravan of carts meandered. They moved with the laziness of repetition. A wandering motion that eluded to the regularity of their surroundings. Rajhu knew the look well. He had needed to master it, in every country, in every city… With it, he could blend in, be accepted, and gain peoples confidences. From there, he could often gain their gold.
‘Hey!’ Will called, waving his hands above his head. ‘Over here! Hey!’
Rajhu looked wearily to the younger boy. ‘Maybe they have water?’
‘And maybe they’re going the same way we are!’ Will agreed. He slapped Rajhu on the arm, and started his decent of the dune, each leg moving the sand in bursts as he ran. Rajhu admired his energy, but decided it was best for him to not copy it. If he did, he was confident he would do little more than end up face down in the sand.
As Will approached the caravan, it slowed to a stop, many people exiting the carriages and greeting him. By the time Rajhu reached the group, they let out a great cheer, patting him on the back and extending welcomes in many different languages. He smiled at them as they ushered him, and Will, into the largest of the carriages. Inside, there were cushions, and silks draping almost every inch of the place. A large hookah sat in the centre of the floor. The traders urged Rajhu and Will to sit.
‘They seem friendly…’ Rajhu remarked, slumping down on a large red pillow.
‘They’re traders, travelling between Durjen and Akaron,’ Will laughed. ‘They’re going exactly where we need to… Isn’t that great?’
Rajhu nodded, forcing a smile as they were brought water. ‘It’s very nice…’ He drank deeply, but pulled his bag closer to himself as the traders settled in around them.
‘What’s the matter?’ Will asked.
‘Just a feeling…’ Rajhu shrugged. ‘But… Keep your guard up.’
The carriage shuddered and began to move. Rajhu yawned in the cool confines. These traders were very happy to see them. Such an attitude was rare… He should know…
Rajhu… was a master… at making people… feel safe…
Darkness enveloped Rajhu. His mind simply went blank. He could feel himself falling into sleep, but couldn’t understand why. Even in his exhaustion, he hadn’t been ready to rest. Not with the traders eyeing him and Will in such a way. Not as a Samrian viewed someone in need of service. Not as a friend observed a friend… but as a banker observed a coin… Or a law-maker observed some new power…
His eyes snapped open, his body going rigid. Raj looked around at the darkened carriage.
How long had he been asleep?
They were no longer moving, and he could hear hushed discussion all around him. Looking to his left, toward the entrance to the carriage, he could see two men. They were thickly built, and had cloth wrapped about their faces.
Rajhu cursed silently.
These were not traders. These were Akrian Pirates! Men of the sand, pillagers. Murderers… Riders of the Worms, and commanders of the Kilrot.
Everything made sense now. He hadn’t simply fallen asleep… They must have put something in the water…
He cursed again, this time aloud. He realised his mistake when the two large pirates looked to him, their eyes shining in the dim light.
One said something to the other in Akrian, while the other stepped forward, rising to his full height.
‘Two people, waking in desert… I didn’t think this be worth the time it takes…’ he admitted. His voice was hoarse, stilted, and breaking out in a rough accent. He chuckled. ‘Never upset to be proved wrong… What should I find in your bag, but two thousand flanks!’
‘Appuja, look!’ the other pirate called.
Rajhu winced as the pirate turned, his eyes falling, as Rajhu’s did, on the solid gold lamp.
‘Hah!’ the pirate exclaimed. ‘I have half mind to not cut your throats… simply for amusement, and gladness you bring me!’
He spun to face Rajhu again. He couldn’t see the man’s mouth, but felt him smile, nonetheless. ‘But more of mind agrees that cutting your throat… please me as much as gold!’
He stepped forward, his hand moving to his waist. There was the unmistakable ring of steel, then Rajhu’s eyes caught the glinting dagger. The man was closing in on him, and yet, he could think of nothing to do. The carriage was confined, and Rajhu was sitting. There was no time to think, there was less time to act.
The pirate lunged and Rajhu flinched, but the bite of the blade never reached him. As the pirate moved, Will sprung from across the carriage, colliding heavily with the man, and pushing him into the wall. Wood gave way under the assault, and the two tumbled away, into the evening light.
Rajhu scrambled to his feet as the second pirate moved away from the bag, dropping the lamp. He was nearly to the entrance before Rajhu met him. Ducking low, he rammed his shoulder into the pirate’s stomach. The man groaned and fell backward. Raj snapped an elbow into the side of the pirate’s head, feeling the man go limp against the attack.
Turning in a rush, Rajhu grabbed the bag with his lamp, and his flanks, and jumped out of the carriage. His feet hit the rough ground, skidding a little as he took in his surroundings.
Gone was the yellow sand and scorching heat of the desert. Now, under his feet, coarse red shale stretched out in every direction. Large flat stones peeked out here and there, while hearty green shrubberies nearly three meters tall grew in the distance.
To his right, Rajhu saw Will rising from his clash with the pirate leader. He held his arm tightly, crimson blood leaking slowly through his fingers. He gave the boy a smile and started toward him. Will stumbled, but took a step. Behind him, Rajhu could now see the form of the pirate Appuja, sprawled on the shale ground. He stirred as Rajhu closed in on Will. Then with a mighty scream, he slammed his fist onto the ground.
‘Kilrot! I call thee!’
Rajhu froze.
Will looked to him in terror. He knew the stories of the Akrian pirates, as well as Rajhu did. He knew the tales of the monstrous worms they rode, and of the dreaded Kilrot, a beast from the depths of the sand.
Rajhu had no idea if they were too far north, now, but the ground was still soft, and the earth behind them shifted.
Suddenly, a form burst through the shale ground, a scream ripping through the warm evening light.
Rajhu saw the form rise up, behind Will. It was big, and at least a dozen tentacles drug it forward. At the end of these, a large pod-like mouth slithered on the ground, its round form giving way to a large beak, filled with needle point teeth.
Tentacles snapped forward, wrapping around Will’s legs, and pulling him roughly to the ground. The beast screamed again as it drug Will backward, towards its open mouth.
Rajhu dropped his bag, a scream clawing its way free from the depths of his person. He rushed forward, not knowing what he could do. He was just a man, and had no hope in a battle against a Kilrot. Still, he wouldn’t leave Will to this. Not after everything they had been through together.
Gold light screamed free from somewhere, and Rajhu turned to see it. It snaked its way from his bag, weaving through the air before colliding with his chest. In that moment, every nerve in his body suddenly came alive. He gasped as the surge fell over him. He didn’t understand, but yet, something in the back of his mind was awakening. Something ancient alighted through those nerves. Something powerful.
Raj turned on the spot. He leapt forward, crossing the distance between himself and Will in a single, massive, bound. His arms reached out, almost of their own accord, grabbing hold of one of the slimy tentacles. It writhed under his grip, but Rajhu paid it no heed. Something was pushing him through this encounter. He didn’t know how he was to achieve victory, only that he would.
The Kilrot pulled against him, but Rajhu held strong. His arms locked, his muscles tensed. Even so, as it was, he couldn’t reach the head of the beast, and therefor, couldn’t engage it in any kind of battle. This was one of the great defences of the Kilrot. Before you could attack, it already had you.
Even as the worry washed over him, Rajhu felt something stirring within. A power he couldn’t explain raged at the thought of Will’s demise. That power cycled back on itself, growing ever stronger. With a mighty roar, Rajhu felt something happen.
Two great pillars of blue light burst from his shoulders. The energy swirled about, and the pillars formed into giant arms. He looked on in awe, but a calm settled on his mind almost immediately.
This was his weapon.
Rajhu tightened his grip on the tentacle, while the arms, of energy, or magic, (he wasn’t sure), stretched forward. Chorded with muscle, and slightly transparent, the arms reached out, grabbing the Kilrot’s mouth. Rajhu slammed the beast’s head against the ground, then hit it, hard, with a giant fist. The Kilrot screamed, and as it did, he thrust the hands back, grabbing at its beak, and tearing it open. The beast screamed again, but the snapping of its jaw cut the cry short. The beast fell limp against the ground, its tentacles losing all their strength.
Will stumbled free, gasping.
The arms vanished from reality as Rajhu turned.
Pirates were encircling them from every side, swords drawn. Their eyes darted between Rajhu and the dead Kilrot.
Rajhu set his stance, thrusting his arms forward. As soon as he had, another wave of blue burst from his body, forming, as before, into blue arms and hands. He swept the pirates away, throwing them into the air. They screamed as they tumbled. Their cries were muffled as they collided with the ground.
Rajhu turned to the carriage, the blue hands wrapping around it. With a strain of effort, he lifted his hands, the blue counterparts, following the action. Rajhu thrust his hands outward, and the carriage was thrown high. It hung in the air for a moment, before descending in a rush, crashing into pieces as it hit the ground.
Pirates were returning to their feet now, but as Raj turned to face them, they ran in the other direction, screaming in Akrian, words Rajhu couldn’t understand.
Will looked at him, as the mystical hands evaporated once more. Rajhu stumbled back, his eyes wide.
‘What… What just happened?’ he asked.
Will shook his head. ‘…I, ah…’
‘Am I a magician?’
‘Let’s just… get out of here…’ Will insisted.
All around them pirates scattered, and before long they were disappearing into the distance. Rajhu stumbled to his bag. He paused for a moment, looking at the lamp that sat near the top.
‘What is it?’ Will asked.
Rajhu grabbed up the lamp, then slung his bag over his shoulder. ‘I don’t know, Will… But I need answers…’
Will nodded. ‘We’ll find them, then. Come on, Cavrey is just over the horizon. I heard the pirates talking. If we hurry, we can make it there before the sun completely sets.’
Rajhu looked up. To the west, the shale ground rose, into a distant, rocky, crag. The sun was slowly lowering itself behind the tall hill. Finally, he nodded.
‘Alright… Let’s get out of here, before I do something else impossible…’
Will smirked. ‘You mean like play hero twice in one day?’
Raj smiled, but said nothing. He shifted the bag on his shoulder, setting himself to the problem at hand. It wasn’t far now, to Cavrey. Once there, he would start on it. Something had happened to him, and Rajhu was set on making it right.

The Kilrot stank of death.
As Gwendolyn approached it, there were still coyotes feasting on its flesh. She marched ahead of the procession. Breaking from the ranks of soldiers, she walked toward the carcass of the desert beast. Beside her, Babo walked lazily.
‘It’s jaw has been snapped…’ she observed.
Babo nodded. ‘Wishcharmer…’ he hissed.
‘If all you’ve told me is true, then… How has he displayed this level of power so suddenly? He was created not two days ago, the Djinn claim.’
The cat nodded. ‘Two days… No more. This kill is fresh. Happened… last night, maybe. He isn’t far, now, Gwendolyn. We should keep moving…’
Nodding, Gwen turned from the corpse, striding back to the large group of soldiers. All eyes fell on her. All eyes locked on her garb. Gwen was dressed in the sacred armour of the Sorceress. It was a symbol of her power, of her position. She could glean the fear in the eyes of the soldiers. Sorcerers, whoever they were, demanded respect, for fear of their power. It did not matter what kingdom or city one was from, fear of the Sorcerers was apparent everywhere. It was this fear that allowed Gwen to do her job.
‘I want one hundred men stationed here, day and night until I return. Blocks three and four, that’s you! The rest of you, accompany me. We’re heading to Cavrey.’
‘Do you honestly believe three hundred soldiers is enough to contain a Wishcharmer?’ Babo asked, coming to stand beside Gwen.
‘I’ve no idea what the appropriate response is, Babo. This isn’t something I’m familiar with.’
‘That much is obvious, Gwendolyn… But who among us knows what to do in these circumstances?’
‘These are soldiers of Geb. They’re given the same training as the Sorcerers personal guards…’
‘Don’t fool yourself, my dear. They’re nothing of the same kind. The Guardsmen are honed by magic. Crafted into weapons. These men are not much more than arrow fodder. Bravery is their greatest resource.’
‘Something I hold in great esteem.’
‘As you should… But do not be lulled into believing it outdistances power, by its sacred nature. Even the divine God above does not protect men from their own stupidity.’
‘Then we had best make sure we make no stupid moves.’
Gwen thought she saw Babo smile, but she was never sure with the creature. After another silence, he nodded. ‘By your grace, Sorceress…’
The soldiers shifted as Gwen gave the command. One hundred of her men began setting up camp in the decimation left by this Wishcharmer. She would have them guard it, until her return. There was a chance this Wishcharmer was still nearby. She would risk the journey to Cavrey, though. It made the most sense. Either way, she would glean something from this mess. There was some clue, hiding either in Cavrey, or here. It would point the way for her. It would lead her to this Wishcharmer, and she would stop him. If she didn’t, as Babo had explained, a war would break out. One that the Sorcerers themselves feared to fight. With such a foe, she would not rest until he was subdued. This, she swore.

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