Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Winding Road: In Blood

By Frank Gori

Lazeron Pi pulled his mind from the darkest shadow of despair. With his voice and mind he called out to Dab and the world came rushing back. Laz’s love for Dab was the one thing he could never reason away, it was an anchor. The minotaur was the brother Laz didn’t have, and the father he never knew. Laz’s memory of his boyhood friend Dab was the only time from childhood Laz could recall feeling safe. Dab’s protective embrace made a circle of protection that Lazeron Pi’s mind could take shelter in when the darker memories came like a storm.

Lazeron found something else within that darkness, an awakening of sorts. The number that entranced him was a mathematical expression of his desire to be safe. Twenty two over seven wasn’t just a ratio, it was Dab. Being a normal wizard and trying to impose order on it was like trying to swim against the tide, fueling that ambition with the magic within your blood was like sailing with a tail wind. It was insane. Some Wizards referred to the process of training another wizard as “the breaking”, because of that insanity.

Lazeron suddenly understood the source of his breaking and his ability to shape the chaotic energies of creation without risking despair. Lazeron understood now that the number wasn’t needed, he had heard of the True Mage before, the kind of magical practitioner that could interweave and marry the magic of sorcerer and wizard. Understanding the source of his insanity meant understanding himself, which also meant understanding that the true source of his power, which was also self. If magic was a fruit tree, wizards were taking from a different branch than sorcerers, the fruit was the same.

The blood was like fire. Any brute can use fire as a weapon, it took know how to use the fire as a tool to create. From fire the tools on which civilization was built were made, it was the same with blood and magic.
As Mal began negotiating with the Sewer King, Lazeron kneeled over, faking a bout of sickness, snatched a rat and put it in his pocket. He looked up at the Sewer King and noted the slightest tilt of the head. The act was acknowledged and permission granted.

Lazeron put his hand inside the pocket with the rat and allowed it to bite him, drawing his blood inside of it. The connection was shockingly fast, the blood of Lazeron’s magic connected immediately with the arcane bond the Sewer King extended to the vermin.

The connection allowed Lazeron a glimpse of the power The Sewer King controlled, what he really was, that glimpse nearly overwhelmed Laz. Every life had a connection to magic, even the vermin. Somehow a portion of all the magical potential of every vermin in the sewer was donated to its king, every creature that decided to call the sewer home paid a sliver of power to him and all that potential together was stitched together like a cloak around his soul. He would be a potent sorcerer without the mantle of power augmenting him, with that power Lazeron would be a torch against a river.

It was a two way street, the Sewer King would understand the source of Lazeron’s power as well. With his power and understanding of necromancy he could be slain but would reform as his mind and power would spread to all the vermin in the sewer then reshape him a new body over time. To Lazeron it was familiar and disgusting.

The Sewer King’s presence in his mind was like having a film on the back of your teeth that you couldn’t quite scrap off with your tongue. The presence touched the number Lazeron wielded like a shield and lingered a moment before retreating respectfully. “Impressive, you have become a True Mage, I hope your Caravanner trades you,” the Sewer King projected.

Goading never worked on Laz. Mal wouldn’t sell him off and if he did Lazeron would bring this misbegotten hole down on their heads. “That’s the spirit, you’d make the Chaos Man proud if you did, well if you haven’t turned traitor.” Laz saw the Sewer King’s mouth moving in conversation with Mal, it wasn’t as impressive as you might imagine. Of course the Sewer King could carry on multiple conversations his awareness was divided constantly among thousands of beady little eyes.

“You understand,” The King projected. It was a statement, he could follow Laz’s thoughts not just what he projected. “Yes,” The Sewer King replied.

Laz used the mental exercise of calculating more portions of the great number to focus. It helped him cope with having that terrible power in his thoughts. Laz then mentally gathered and presented what he felt was a compelling case that he did not in fact betray the Mage’s Guild. It was his old mentor Morte Bisset setting him up, gaining revenge.

The prison had spell wards to contain a living spell, and a release mechanism to unleash it, that was Wizard work and there were very few wizards. The floor with the undead was another tell, Morte was the only wizard in Hub who specialized in Necromancy. The only problem was that Morte had been executed for his crimes against his students and the Mage’s Guild.

The blacksmith was evidence in a way. Morte wanted the secret of soul forging to make himself a new kind of living death. It would be a unique brand of immortality that would suit his twisted desires. In undeath Morte couldn’t feel the things he wanted to feel. If Hodge could teach him soul forging he could create new bodies for himself, it was not dissimilar to what The Sewer King had done. 

This was a theory, but to Lazeron it had the ring of truth. He knew Morte Bisset in a more intimate manner then he desired. The elderly wizard was fascinated by the line between life and death and in that fascination he crossed lines. He was obsessed with youth, living magic, and delighted in torture. The prison was his, Lazeron knew it to be as true as the number he held sacred, the circle that failed to protect him from his master’s repellant lust.

Morte had devised a method to steal some of the magical potential from his students. Lazeron was fortunate enough to discover and expose this before his power was taken. It was another form of abuse he justified in the name of power. 

The Sewer King projected, “I see the reasoning on your theory and your conviction in evidence that is circumstantial at best. Still your fears have enough foundation in reality that I cannot discount them and I will bring this forth in the next meeting of guild lieutenants. You did not trust us when you were in trouble, you fled with the others to the Merchant Guild rather than your family, of this you are guilty and you have forsaken us and are banished from our company. If your old mentor somehow survives as you believe he does then only bringing proof of his destruction will reverse your banishment and restore you to the guild.” It had a ring of finality and the presence left.

Lazeron’s defection would stand, the choice was irreversible, but how the Mage guild regarded him was still salvageable. Lazeron would rather be viewed a friendly to his old colleagues than regarded as a traitor and enemy. Sometimes outsiders enjoyed a status near that of a guild member, it was about as much as Laz could hope for if he ever wanted to call Hub home again.

If Lazeron Pi was right about Morte Bisset the truth is he’d end up confronting the bastard sooner or later anyway. There was enmity enough between them that Morte would pursue Lazeron which was why Laz would be happy to leave Hub with Mal’s Caravan, the road would be an equalizer.

Laz could still feel the rat in his pocket without touching it. With little will he could smell with its, no her, nose and see with her eyes. It was the arcane bond, like what Laz had with his ring. A whisper on the wind carried The Sewer King’s gravelly voice which matched that oily presence, “a gift.”