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Short Stories

Postby Friendlysociopath » Wed Jun 29, 2016 3:37 am

Titles aren't really my thing. However I have multiple tales spanning across the internet and might as well store the small ones somewhere.

Post Index:
2 : Knives and Shadows
3 : Knives and Shadows
4 : Age of Myth - Beginning + Fae List + The Edge
5: Age of Myth - Example + Imprisoned
6: Zone Magic
7: Zone Magic
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Knives and Shadows

Postby Friendlysociopath » Thu Jun 30, 2016 1:24 am

Nearly A Thousand Years Ago, in the Second Bulgarian Empire
Long ago, in ancient Vlachia, there lived a family of landowners. They were not incredibly wealthy in coin, nor did they have outstandingly beautiful daughters to tempt the men; they did not have a sacred treasure or family heirlooms of extreme value- what they did have was a plague and a single son. It is there that our story begins... in the family home, amidst stained and twisted sheets. The Lord and Lady Aleksandrov had been taken ill by the sickness that was spreading throughout the region. It was a merciless disease: fiercely contagious if you touched the victim, seemingly impossible to cure by any method, and it destroyed its victims from within. Catalysts would form on their eyes, rendering them white and lifeless- the flesh would turn dark and begin to deteriorate long before the person had even died- the muscles and limbs of the body would grow weak and falter. All of this, and more, would occur over the span of only a week.

When the lord and lady of the region became bedridden, their son demanded to be let into the room. The family servants refused- none but the healers could enter until the family had passed. The son would not be stopped, hurling himself past the bystanders with abandon before finally bursting through the doors to grab at his mother and father. Lady Aleksandrov had already passed on- her life had been extinguished. Lord Aleksandrov still lived, laboring for each breath, blood leaking from the open sores on his body. But sanity still clung to him, unlike so many others who had fallen. He reached out a hand to his son, the limb shook, as though it took all of his strength to lift it so high- perhaps it did. The son grasped the hand, pleading with his father.
"Do not leave me- without you- I will be alone!"
His father gasped with pain before speaking, each word was choked out with a new gasp and cough as blood crawled down from his lips, "Live well... Valko..." The Lord Aleksandrov tried to speak further, but his time was over, he could not finish whatever final words he had for his son.
Tears poured down the son's face as the arm went limp, the limb falling to the floor with a finality that could not be denied. A shadow fell over him, the steward of the house stood over him. Even as the son turned around, he could feel the eyes of the household staring at him from the doorway. The steward shook his head.
"For your foolishness, you are tarnished. We must send for your cousin to lead the lands- you are already dead- Valko Aleksandrov."
Valko mutely stood- walking to his room and allowing himself to be imprisoned within. Before the rooster crowed the next morning his heart had already begun to flutter and his limbs grew weak. He was not allowed to leave his room- young men of nearby families watched his door day and night. Should he attempt to flee- they would likely kill him. His meals were brought to his door by a young girl near his own age- Nikol was her name. She alone did not curse Valko's name when she spoke it. It was for this reason that Valko pleaded for her assistance before his cousin would be granted the lands his family had worked so hard to help grow and protect. She heard a voice through the door- it was weak- but with iron at its core.
"Nikol- for this last favor I beg you- send a message out across the land."
Nikol was fearful of retribution- but she agreed.
"What is the message to be?"
There was silence behind the door, but then Valko's voice emerged.
"To the soul that grants me eternal life, name your price and it shall be met."

Days passed, men came and went- trying to win the last Aleksandrov's favor. The family was not wealthy- but the lands they oversaw were some of the most fertile in all of Bulgaria. But the men and women, one and all, were imprisoned following their meeting with Valko. Frauds, he named them- con men- cheaters- thieves- liars- within a week he had sentenced nine of them to die. Each day Nikol asked Valkov through the door whether he had gained what he sought- each day he told her that he had not. Nikol grew sad, Valko's voice had seemed so strong before- but after seven days he was a whisper of himself.
The night before Valko's cousin, Todor, was to be legally granted the rights to the lands- a great fog descended upon the Aleksandrov house. The mists glittered in the moonlight- obscuring the view of any who might step outside this night...

Valko was weak. The days had taken their toll on him. He could barely see anything but the brightest of flames in the fireplace- even standing and walking took an enormous toll on his body- and blood freely dripped down his arms. He was a man that would soon die. He collapsed onto the floor- unable to reach his bed after sitting near the fire. Weariness overtook him. Why struggle? Why fight? Perhaps he should just stop here... oblivion began to steal over his body before a new voice reached his ears.
"Eternal life is yours for the taking- all you need do is seize it."

A woman stepped from the shadows of the room walking over to Valko's body. How had she entered? The windows were shut- as was the door. The roaring fire in the fireplace would've been impossible to bypass without harm. But there the woman stood- as though she had walked out of thin air to stand over the prone heir to the Aleksandrov estate. Valko used the last dregs of his strength to push himself to his knees, then to stand, only to collapse against the wall with a cry of pain. The woman chuckled.
"In your case- I would seize it quickly- you've no time left in this world anymore. Come."
She grabbed Valko's arm and pulled him towards a corner of the room- where the shadows were deepest.

Through sheer strength of will, Valko stood his ground and wouldn't let the woman lead him away. She frowned and looked at him in puzzlement.
"Dearie- you can come back after we're done."
"No," Valko spoke with a ragged whisper, "I just need to ask you to do one thing."
The woman cocked her head to the side, Valko could see no more than that.
"You're a curious one- what do you want me to do?"
Valko shuddered, speaking the command he had used to filter out charlatans nine times already.
"Kill yourself- prove your immortality works."
The woman smiled and walked over to the fireplace, grabbing a fire-poker, then turning to face Valko. Without a word- she impaled herself straight through the heart with the weapon. Valko involuntarily started forwards, wanting to help her, but his instincts were rendered pointless as the woman laughed and removed the poker- her flesh repairing itself before Valko's eyes. With Valko's fading vision and the backlight from the fire- the woman looked like a dark demon striding forth from hell to take his soul. She stalked forwards and grabbed Valko's arm, slinging him over her shoulder as though he weighed nothing.
"Now my dear- we've wasted enough time."
She stepped into the shadows in the corner of the room- and Valko knew no more as the world faded to black and he felt as though he were falling.

Valko felt himself hurtling through darkness. Eventually a light bloomed and he emerged into a brightly lit room with the woman from the shadows. Valko looked around, identifying his new location, it was more difficult with his fading vision but with how bright the place was- he made the connection. They were in the jailhouse. The cells before him were dark- as if the night had crept through the windows to invade the cells. Valko could hear some of the inmates screaming- but the sound was muted, stifled, contained- almost like the sound was being cut off long before it reached its destination.
"Nine failed you and sought to betray you." The woman pulled out a sinister knife. "Nine lives will you take then. This is part of the price that must be paid."
But who is paying it? Them or I? Valko thought to himself as he took the knife. He had never seen anything like it. It was comprised entirely of a dark stone- but it appeared smooth to the touch. The blade was slightly shorter than most daggers Valko had seen- but the edge was razor sharp. The weapon seemed to almost draw in the light- seeming so black that Valko would lose it if it were placed in a shadow. His hands trembled as he held the item- the disease rendering him almost unable to hold the thing. Valko looked over at the woman.
"A cruel jest- I pose no more threat to them than a newborn babe."
The woman looked annoyed, but thoughtful.
"It must be your hand on the weapon and your intent to kill. Those are ancient rules beyond change... but I suppose I can aid you in this endeavor. You interest me. Tell me of these lives you're about to take."
With a wave of her hand, the first door opened. The woman took Valko's hand and led him into the cell.

Sebastian, the man had named himself. He had insisted immortality could be gained by imbibing certain potions and elixirs he himself had prepared. When Valko had given him the command to kill himself- Sebastian's face had turned white with fear.
"My Lord Aleksandrov- sir- Valko- the potion will only cure any disease- not grant you immortality."
"Will it really?" Valko's voice had been cold. "You stated before it would render me immune to death. Do you not trust your own creation?" Sebastian had stood there, shaking in terror as two guards entered the room- faces covered with cloth as they drew their blades. "Rot in jail- charlatan."
Sebastian had cried as he was led away. Valko's steward, Desislav, had later examined the 'elixirs' the man had brought and stated they held little more than honey and water.
And so Sebastian's death had been assured. Valko felt his hand guide the knife and the woman hold it steady as he threw his weight into it. Sebastian perished, crying no more.
"Life starts life. Life ends life. Life was, life is, life will ever be." The woman spoke slowly and softly, almost like a prayer. She helped Valko leave the room. The blood-stained knife he held before was removed from his hand and he felt something placed with it. It was another knife, the same as the first, though not bloody.
"Time is fading, for you and for the night, we have much to do."

"There is a balance between the world of man and the world of nature- Lord Aleksandrov. For every man and woman born- there is an animal or plant in nature that shares your life. This is why some perish with no discernible reason- their partner has died. I myself discovered my counterpart to be a lovely fox out towards the remains of Rome. So long as it and I remain safe- neither of us can die."
"A fox you say? Perhaps more like a weasel?" Valko had found the tale interesting, but did not believe it held credit. A theory he confirmed when the man (who had never offered his name) asked for nearly half of Valko's land in return for scouring the world for Valko's 'spiritual partner'. Valko had agreed- so long as he met Valko's ultimatum.
"Prove your immortality to me."
The man had tried to run, not towards the window of course- Valko stood there and the man would rather face the noose than the disease Valko carried, but he tried to dash through the door before the guards caught him by the scruff of his neck and bore him to the ground. Valko spoke from deep within his room.
"I do hope your fox survives- although if you and he are alike- I don't doubt I would be doing the world a favor by killing you both."
Valko hoped the fox, if there was such a fox, could escape whatever confinement the man had placed it in. He would never return to it. Again, Valko, slid the knife home- feeling a gasp as the man died. Valko still didn't know his name. And now I never will.

The next two had been a duo, a man and wife, a Turkish couple. They had been particularly clever. The man, Cenk, had seemed suspicious from the start- insisting that only he could bestow immortality upon Valko just as he held. First however, he required a night to 'Gaze into the heavens' for answers as to whether he should. Valko had agreed to let the two stay for the night. During this period, a scuffle broke out between the two, guards awoken by the commotion ran to the room just in time to see Azra, the wife, stabbing Cent with a dagger as she screamed at him for infidelity. Despite this apparent attack, Cenk was unharmed, and quite willing to show Valko the wounds he did not possess- though blood covered him aplenty.
Valko has agreed it was most miraculous. Then he asked to see the dagger. Cent's face fell as the weapon was brought forwards and placed into Valko's hand. A cunning toy it was- the weapon was made of smaller parts that would slide into one another- giving the illusion of being harmed while no damage was dealt at all.
Valko's knife had no such trick- it plunged into Azra's breast first- despite her pleading. Cenk had tried to escape but the woman Valko was following had held him back with one hand- pinning him to the wall as the other assisted Valko as he slid a second knife home. This time he repeated the saying she had used before.
"Life starts life. Life ends life. Life was, life is, life will ever be."
The woman nodded as they swept onwards through the cells.

Potions and spells, profane rituals and blessings divine, all had been offered to Valko- all had been found to be liars and frauds. Nine lives had tried to trick him- and nine lives he took in return. As the last knife slid home, Valko felt his heart stop beating for a moment, the lull causing him to collapse to the ground. The organ started again as the woman knelt down beside him.
"Truly- I have never seen one tread so close to death as you. We must waste no more time- come."
She had lifted Valko into the air and strode into the shadows once more, vanishing from sight even as the jailer finally walked in to check on his prisoners.

Falling and twisting, turning and rising, flowing and stopping- and then Valko found himself somewhere he had not expected. They had arrived inside the family tomb. Before him lied his mother and father's bodies- they had not yet been burned.
"It took no small effort to fool them into burning the wrong bodies- I hope you appreciate that my babe."
Valko fell, unable to support himself. He looked up at the bodies of his parents- confused. They looked just as they had the last he had seen them.
"I heard your call within the moment you made it, little boy, you however required special considerations for this to work. I require another thing from you."
"What... what do you require?" Valko's voice was quiet, seeing the still bodies of his family had rendered him almost silent.
"I need you to carve out the hearts of the two that brought you into this world."
"WHAT?" Valko's voice echoed throughout the tomb, along with his coughs as his lungs shuddered to support him through the abuse. "Why... (cough) I cannot do that... (cough) not to my mother and father..."
The woman picked Valko up, moving him over to the bodies and tossing him forwards to touch them.
"I have no more patience for you. Immortality has a price that must be paid- the strong live on and the weak perish. You have taken from those who would harm you- now you must take like from those that gave it to you."
Valko felt another knife pressed into his hand. He could barely see it through the tears he was shedding. He understood now- "Life starts life. Life ends life."
The woman nodded, her features impossible to see with his shadowy vision. "Life was, life is, life will ever be."
Valko looked down into the face of his dead mother. "I'm sorry..." the knife descended.

A short time later, and another trip through shadows, saw Valko near what he thought was a cave. The woman led him inside- deeper and deeper- down to where no light reached.
"This will suffice- quickly now stand here."
Valko felt himself positioned in the middle of a small area- with no walls around himself. It was no longer his failing vision that rendered him blind- but the shadows that seemed to almost have substance.
"How can you see?" He asked the woman.
"The darkness sees for me." The woman replied. Then Valko felt the first knife enter his spine, driving him to the floor. Pain erupted through his body as he heard the woman begin to sing. Valko's mind rejected the words- the unnatural meaning within setting his brain afire with dark magics.
And soon Valko knew nothing at all but endless pain.

Valko awoke just as the sun's rays reached his body outside of the cave. He gingerly pulled himself to his feet as he looked around. The woman sat on a nearby rock, waiting for him to rise. Valko's vision had not returned to normal- nor did he feel any stronger. Despair circled in his chest.
"What happened- what did you do? Am I-" Valko gasped and collapsed forwards, feeling his body screaming from the disease that still lingered within. Even his limbs were still leaking blood from the open sores. The woman laughed- sounding like Valko had just played a pleasant joke upon her.
"Your cousin is due to inherit your lands within the hour. We're nearly a days travel from your home, if you wish to claim what is yours, run."
Valko took first one step, then another, before stumbling into the nearby river. When he looked over his shoulder- the woman had vanished.
What have I done?

He ran. There was nothing else for him in this world. If he was to die- why not die moving? Valko staggered back and forth, a drunk would have more grace and balance than he did. Each step was agony, torture, but he tried to die a proud man instead of crawling along the ground. As he continued to move- something began to change: at first the steps were weak and timid, then they slowly became more sure, finally, he broke into a run. The agony receded, his vision brightened, Valko straightened up and ran like the young man he had been before the crippling disease. He was healed. Better even, Valko had been a fairly athletic young man before- but now he felt nearly as though he were flying as he ran along the riverbed. Leaves from trees fell in his wake- spiraling through the air after him as though drawn by his speed. He jumped over a bend in the river, spanning the gap that required a stone bridge farther down the river to cross in one leap. He landed expertly, not missing a step as he continued to run the moment he touched the ground. I know not what that woman did- but I feel reborn. Valko moved onwards, his breath coming easily despite hurtling through the woods at speed surpassing even the fastest stallions he had ridden in his life. He crested a hill and saw the smoke from his home off in the distance as he jumped upwards- sailing through the air for several seconds before dropping back to the ground. He did not know if he was immortal yet- but that would have to wait. Currently he had bested a disease that none had survived before... his thoughts slowed to a stop as he realized the woman had never named her price. He glanced back over his shoulder to look for her and was rewarded by running into a tree with a trunk so large he could never have fit his arms around it.
Valko fell backwards with a howl, holding onto the arm he was sure he had broken. To his surprise it was only bruised- as though he had been slapped particularly hard with a striping stick. He glanced upright in surprise as he heard a loud creaking noise. The living tree he had just crashed into fell- its roots surging from the earth right in front of him. One caught him upside the face- leaving a cut just above his eye. He clapped his hand to the wound in fright as the birch dropped-causing the ground to tremble with its passing. Blood coated his hand- surely an immortal didn't bleed? If she appears before me again- I have many questions.
Valko stood up and walked over to the fallen Hornbeam tree. A hefty branch caught his eye, it looked to make a curve at the end, almost like the crook of a shepherd- though the curve was more pronounced. Hating to have destroyed such a fine specimen for no purpose- Valko reached out and caught at the limb- placing one hand beneath and the other over it before planting his booted foot and giving a yank. The branch broke off almost exactly as he had hoped- leaving him with a staff that stood slightly taller than himself. Memories began to stir of what had transpired last night. Knives coated in blood, darkness and shadows, and the chant of the woman... Valko remembered what he had done- the knowledge he had been given- and he knew what he had to do.
Valko resumed his run with his new staff at his side, a plan already developing for how to deal with his cousin.

In the feasting hall of the Aleksandrov family- a few new faces now sat. In the seat of the Lord sat Valko's cousin, Todor, a look of satisfaction upon his brow as he surveyed all of the landowners in attendance. The family steward, Desislav, and his daughter, Nikol, were both sent away from the table and instructed to simply provide a steady stream of food to the table for Todor and his associates to eat. Todor had not come alone, no fewer than a dozen men had followed him to the new province- several of whom had come with weapons sheathed on their hips or backs. Todor had come to claim the rich lands- and he would not be turned away. He delighted in the fine food and drink his cousin had available, and took no small pleasure in looking out the windows at the rich land that had formerly belonged to Valko- and Valko had possessed something else fine as well. Todor waited for Nikol to approach the table once more before grasping her arm.
"What a beauty you are- where has Valko been hiding you all of these years?"
Nikol struggled to pull away, "My lord- your guests require more food-"
Todor silenced her, "Then Desislav can serve them. You, however, should serve only me I think..."
Nikol was indeed a beautiful girl- and age would likely only enhance what was evident now at 16 years of age. Unblemished skin, untouched by scars or scratches of any kind. Bright green eyes that brought to mind the fresh leaves of spring. Black hair as smooth as satin draped down past her shoulder- slightly in disarray due to her frantic attempts to serve so many- but it only added to her charm. And her body was fit and strong beneath the simple servant clothing she wore. A fine body for a mother... Todor's thoughts were interrupted as the doors to the hall sprang open.
"Who dares?!" Todor yelled before realizing what had happened.
Valko had returned.

Valko limped forwards, using the staff to support his weight, seemingly too weak to stand on his own. In complete silence he walked forwards- the only sound made was the echoing THUD of the staff as it struck the ground.
Finally he reached the table, raising his head to stare directly into the eyes of his cousin. Nikol, caught in between as she was, took a moment to compare the two.

Though they were cousins- Valko and Todor could not look more different. Where Todor was tall and given to a lighter complexion, Valko had been shorter and darker skinned before the disease, now he looked even more frail before Todor- who was a fairly large man at almost 2 meters tall. Todor kept his golden hair short and close-cropped while Valko's own dark hair instead came down past his ears. And though neither of them likely noticed at the moment- Nikol could see a great difference in their eyes as well. Both were a blue to match that of a clear sky, but Todor's were narrowed in hate and disgust while Valko's were drooped as though in sympathy for the man who had replaced him. True, the ceremony had not yet been performed, but nothing had appeared to change. Valko was still crippled and sick- no doubt soon to perish from the disease that had claimed him. But what if he really did discover immortality? Nikol thought to herself.

"Cousin- so good to see you!" Todor's voice boomed throughout the hall. "I had thought you fled to die alone in the wilderness- how kind of you to bring your body back so we may burn it properly!"
Several of the men Todor had brought with him rose from the table and began moving towards Valko- who raised a bloodstained hand towards them. As one, the six stopped as though turned to stone. None dared approach someone tainted by the disease. Valko spoke, his voice sounding different to Nikol than it had the past week.
"Is that any way to treat a man in his own home?"
Todor slammed his fist into the table, shaking it and upsetting dishes down the entire length of it.
"You lost your right to this once you became sick- you can no longer oversee and protect this region!"
Nikol noticed a bit of blood on Valko's head as he smiled. The blood was a vivid red in contrast to his pale face.
"Todor- how far you have fallen- to betray your own?"
Todor's face turned red with wrath. His grip tightened, threatening to break Nikol's wrist. She cried out as the pain increased.
"Valko- you speak so to the man who could spare your life? I have done nothing- delusions from the sickness you carry, no doubt."
Valko straightened with seemingly great effort.
"I speak so to the man who delivered a body to this land that brought the disease- all in hopes of slaying my mother and father!"
Whispers began to circle through the hall. Conspiratorial glances were darting left and right as the farmers and villagers began to talk. Todor screamed in frustration.
"Do not believe his lies! The fattest calf and the fastest horse in the land to the one who brings me his lying lips!"
Nikol gasped as the six men were rejuvenated from their fear by the temptation of riches, drawing swords and clubs as they raced towards Valko, three on each side.
Valko shuffled to face the first of the men to reach him, the man bringing his club down in a savage arc towards the top of his head. Valko stumbled to side, just as the club raced past where he had been a moment before. The evasion took him into the path of the man wielding a spear- who tried to pierce Valko through the chest in hopes of keeping him away. Valko instead fell to the side, dodging the thrust and collapsing to the ground. All six of the men surrounded him- baring whatever weapons they had. Nikol grew quiet as they all readied their weapons to finish him off.
And then Valko moved.

Valko sprang upwards, jamming the end of his staff into the floor to propel himself up over the heads of his assailants. Valko landed behind them, bringing the uncurved end of it up in a short and efficient jab between the legs of the first man. He crumpled to the floor as the rest turned in bewilderment. Valko remembered the words the witch had told him last night.
Nine lives have you added to your own, so now the power of ten men flows through you.
Valko felt this was true, it was in his bones, his muscles, his blood- his very being. As he danced his way through the six men he delivered a series of chops and blows- sending men to the floor with one blow and sprawling with two. Faster. He ducked beneath an axe as he simultaneously parried one of the swordsmen, even while lifting a leg to avoid the grasp of the first man he had knocked to the ground and kicking a fourth in the chest. Stronger. The two armed with swords raced at Valko- both chopping from either side at him. Valko raised the staff and caught their blows together, flexing back but otherwise withstanding the attack fine. A third man brought a chair overhead and added it to the weight of them- but still they could not move Valko. He pushed forwards and sent them all backwards and he brought the staff around his body- striking them each across the chest to knock them back. The power of ten men!
It was then that the one with the spear attacked from behind, driving his weapon through Valko's torso. The blade emerged in a fountain of blood- startling the hall to silence. Previously it had been full of equal parts screaming and cheers. Valko staggered forwards- the pain erupting through his body. But he remembered more that the witch had said.
For every life you take, it shall come to pass, you will live once more.

Valko turned quickly, shattering the spear with a palm as he headbutted the man who had killed him. The man stumbled back as Valko brought the staff around as fast as he could- swiping the legs out from under all six men. Before they hit the ground, Valko brought the curved part of his staff around, collecting the bodies and whirling them around and over his head before slamming the collective group into the floor right in front of Todor.
The floorboards of the entire hall rattled at the impact. Not a single man moved from the pile they had been deposited in- though their groans assured Valko he had managed to not kill them. Valko hefted the staff and pointed it at Todor. His voice held no hint of the weakness it had formerly held.
"This is my home Todor, you and your threats are not welcome here. See now- no sign of the disease still marks me- I am cured." Valko turned to the hall- undoing the ripped remains of his shirt to show the crowd his bared torso- and the notable lack of wounds the spear had left. "I have overcome your deceit and your thugs." Valko turned back to Todor, eyes blazing with wrath. "Leave now- and never return to my home. I give you your life- do not waste it."
Todor kicked away from the table, fleeing the hall with all the speed he could muster. The few servants he had brought with him took a few steps after him but stopped, seemingly reluctant to follow, looking to Valko and the rest of the hall. They all stared at him in silence. The only sound was the coughing and groaning of the disabled men. Valko himself addressed the people he had vowed to serve and protect.
"I know it may be strange, but I ask for your trust. I am the same man I was before. My mother was-IS- Dana Aleksandrov, my father is Rumen Aleksandrov! I have lived here my whole life! I have worked alongside you, spoken with you, walked with you- now more than ever- you all are my family- and I beg of you," Valko sank to his knees and bowed, "Do not turn me away from my home..."
Valko expected fear, silence, jeers, cries for his execution- what he heard instead was applause as the people surged forwards to clap him on the shoulder and hug him, praising his return from the dead. Desislav and Nikol were at the head of each group respectively. Valko smiled, tears climbing down his face.
Though my powers spring from the shadow- the future I see is bright.

Desislav managed to pull Valko away from the crowd- seeking a moment of peace to ask a few questions.
"Valko, my boy, how did you know Todor did those things?"
Valko looked into Desislav's eyes as he responded with total sincerity. "A witch told me."
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Knives and Shadows

Postby Friendlysociopath » Sat Jul 09, 2016 5:26 pm

Nearly A Thousand Years Ago, in the Second Bulgarian Empire
Later that night, after the celebratory feast was over and the local healers had finally admitted they could find nothing wrong, Valko was allowed to go back to his room. Or rather- the room his parents had shared. His own bedding and clothes had all been burned shortly after he disappeared- everything that remained were things left by his mother and father and had been untouched during their own time of sickness.
Except for the witch that was sitting on the bed and waiting for him- that was all his.

"I believe you have questions for me?"
Valko couldn't speak for a moment, stunned after being able to see her with working eyes.
"I... confess to being surprised- I had thought you a crone. But instead you're..." words failed him. She was beautiful.
It was true, no man could deny the woman in front of them was perhaps one of the finest examples of femininity in existence. The way her cheekbones caught the light- how her purple eyes fairly danced as you gazed into them- the fullness and curve of her lips- the shape of her bosom and hips- perfection!
She giggled, sounding for all the world like a young girl, "With the proper application- you can take anything from those you kill. Strength, knowledge, skills, and yes- even their beauty."
Valko didn't know how to respond to that. After a moment of thought he dared to ask.
"So you've killed others then?"
"Of course." The woman flipped her crimson hair from her face. "That is the secret after all. Life starts life-"
"I don't need to hear it again." Valko firmly stated, striding forwards to get closer to the woman. "But I do have questions- will you answer them?"
The woman's face grew serious. "I know your questions already, my young shadow, so save your breath and listen well." The fire seemed to shrink slightly as she spoke, the shadows loomed deeper than before and the night outside grew quiet for a moment. "You may call me... Syanka- I believe that will do. Now about your new abilities- and my price?"
Valko nodded, "I am a man of my word- name your price and it will be met."
Syanka smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. "Good. You are rich in land but not in coin- the price is I require is your two best specimens of horse, cow, hen, and sow on the winter solstice. Leave them just inside the cave where you joined the shadows and depart- you are to hand this duty to no other. Do not seek to cheat me," her voice became colder than steel, "Or else I will take back the gift I have given." Valko nodded as she continued. "You also are to never leave this region. You will remain here so long as your house stands. Whatever children you may sire can travel as they please- but you will stay. You will tell nobody of your secrets. I saw what you did in the hall- do no such thing henceforth. I have confused the memories of all present to save you this one time- I will not do so again."
Valko shrunk back, feeling as though he had disappointed Syanka. "I apologize- you did not tell me-"
"I had not thought you so foolish. Had I told you and still you chose to do so- I would raze your house and everyone in it to the ground." Her tone had become joking again, but Valko believed every word as if screamed inches from his face, "Now listen well- for now I will speak of your abilities."
Valko bowed his head, "I listen."
"Good. As you may remember, for every foe you slay, you will drain- we'll call it their 'life' from them. This force, the energy, the current of vitality- it will enter your body and sustain you. Should you be slain or be grievously wounded, one life's worth of energy will be used to heal you. I sense you have already lost one- be careful- the loss of them all will see you just as dead as you were to be before I saved you."
Syanka stood and stepped towards the shadows- clearly intending to leave. Valko held out a hand and called after her.
"Wait- is there nothing else you might teach me?"
Syanka looked over her shoulder at him and smiled. "Listen to the shadows, little Valko, I'll be watching."
She shrank into the darkness- Valko did not see her again for some time.

Years passed...
Young Valko was a good landowner, always willing to hear out and solve disputes between the local farmers and breeders and to lend aid in times of need. When an older man took sick- Valko personally took up the care of his fields until the elderly fellow regained his health. It was this same unrequited commitment that had earned his father and mother a place in the hearts of the surrounding farmers. While they had raised no beasts and tilled no fields themselves for generations now, the Aleksandrovs had served as leaders of the community, a mantle Valko had accepted with grace. He took Nikol to be his wife after they both reached their 18th year- delighting everyone with the union as it had been clear the two had been fond of one another since their days as children. Valko became Lord Aleksandrov- just as his father had been.
But not all about Valko was alike to his father.
He began to take an unusual interest in the arts of healing, frequently pestering and following the local healers and traveling medicine-men for knowledge and asking to be present to assist them. It was thought that his near-death experience had kindled such interest. He gained knowledge of equal parts old folklore and newer, more researched methods, soon his knowledge of the body was so great that occasionally a student traveled to the estate every few months- eager to learn from him.
He also seemed to have a curious lack of fear. While he'd not been an extremely timid child- Valko soon was noted to be without fright, or perhaps he held more than his fair share of courage after his ordeal? It was hard to say which held true. Certainly he'd not fled when his cousin had returned in the night, seeking to slay him for slandering his name. Nikol swore she'd seen a dagger plunged into Valko's breast but later, after the broken remains of the assailant had been carried from the room, Valko bared his chest to her and assured the panicking wife that no harm had come to him; the darkness had likely caused her to mistake the missed blow for a fatal one. The blood on his clothing he has assured her belonged to the deceased assassin- who Valko had dealt three swift and deadly blows before she had finished screaming in surprise.

A raging inferno consumed a farmstead, the mother of three screaming as she realized her youngest was still inside. The flames were fierce and seemed to almost have a mind of their own, lashing outwards at any who dared to draw close. The father had already tasted these fires- an errant lick had burned his arm so severely he could not close the fingers on his hand. The mother and the two children had despaired, wailing as the building began to crumble from the onslaught of burning wood. The home crumbled into ruins, collapsing on itself and leaving only the doorframe standing. There were no tears as the heat scoured them all away- but the family cried nonetheless. The shuddering sobs abruptly ceased as a dark shape manifested in the fire. Valko ran from the fire and flames- a bundle in his arms and a blaze across his back. The young Lord Aleksandrov sped from the house before he collapsed to his knees and then fell flat, pushing the bundle towards them as the wailing cries of a babe could be heard echoing out across the night. The family initially thought Valko had perished, but after a moment he regained his feet, coughing and pounding at his chest and back. The father had no words for this act- how had Valko found their youngest child in there? Valko had shuddered twice before responding that it had surely been luck and nothing more- the same reason he still lived. While skeptical, the mother was overjoyed to have her daughter back and didn't question the explanation. She had learned that Valko cared about each and every soul under his care- and it had earned her undying gratitude. Valko himself had learned something as well- flames burned badly and caused great pain- but only one life was lost so long as he still burned. But damned if he wanted to try again- immortality meant no reprieve from pain would come.

A band of southern barbarians invaded the region during a harsh winter, attempting to make off with harvest, gold, and perhaps women. They found themselves unhorsed as a shadow flitted between them, ripping each man from his horse and throwing them to the ground. Once they'd regained their wits and their feet, they beheld a slender man, dark clothes covered him and a stave of wood was clasped in his hands. They drew their blades but he appeared unmoved. A cold voice echoed out, bringing a chill beyond the weather to their napes.
"I will offer you one chance to lower those blades."
As one, the men charged this new figure, raising their swords as they cried out in foreign tongues. The man bowed his head, uttering a final phrase as they drew close.
"Life starts life. Life ends life. Life was, life is, life will ever be."
The first man was brought low by a single swift jab to his skull, dropping him without a further sound. His momentum caused him to slide forwards in the snow, coming to a halt perhaps a meter from where he'd been struck. The next man attempted a thrust, attempting to impale Valko's form. With his staff at his side, Valko turned slightly, deflecting the attack before bringing his knee into his opponent's skull. His head snapped backwards, teeth and blood making a shower as Valko stepped around the man's left, using him as a shield for the next opponent. The third man hesitated, unwilling to strike his companion. Valko had no such issues, an elbow caught the staggered man upside the head, sending him careening into his ally and bearing him to the ground. While occupied thus, the fourth man had thrown his sword, hoping to catch Valko off-guard. The attack moderately succeeded as Valko ducked to evade the missile, losing vision of both still able-bodied men briefly. They jumped upon him, each baring a pair of twin knives. Valko slammed his stave into the ground, causing one man to catch his chest upon the point and bringing him to an immediate halt. The other buried both knives into Valko's back, drawing blood and causing him to scream with agony all too real. With rage in his heart and pain in his mind, Valko spun around and wrapped his hands around his adversary's neck. He throttled the life from him until he moved no more- dropping the still body to the ground and noting the last man was attempting to crawl away in the snow, his breathing labored and difficult. Valko hefted his weapon and approached his last victim, the man looked back just in time to see a dark shape closing with frightening speed and to let off one final wail before he was silenced forever.
The next dawn saw four new horses in Valko's stables. Of the riders, there was no sign ever again.

Whilst riding along a cliff side with Nikol, Valko and her spoke about the coming spring, and the child it would bring. Far below a rocky slope eventually gave way to a river, coursing through the stones, looking almost like a blue thread from so far up. As he leaned from his saddle to kiss his beloved, a serpent hidden in the grass sprang at Valko's steed- startling the beast and causing it to rear. Valko fell from his saddle and bounced off the edge of the slope- plummeting downwards without a sound. Nikol slowly dismounted and carefully approached the cliff, cursing the fickle fates that would steal her husband from her. To her surprise and bewilderment, Valko was standing deep in the ravine, though his arm and leg appeared twisted badly. She called for him to wait as she returned to the homestead to gain assistance. Upon ensuring she had truly departed, Valko glared at his arm and leg, straightening them with a series of (not remotely painless) cracking and snapping noises until they resembled their previous forms. When later everyone arrived, Valko was idly napping at the bottom of the cliff, the picture of health. The rescue party questioned him in amazement. In between trying to breathe from his wife almost strangling him with her loving embrace, Valko regretfully informed them he'd climbed down on his own and his woman was overtired from the pregnancy. And though he bore no wound, the tears of shame and fear his love shed that morning cut to his heart in a way no weapon ever had.

A group of Turks took up camp just near Valko's lands. Aware of their numbers, well over a dozen, Valko respectfully accepted their request that he join them for a meal. Rude and insufferable as they were, the Turks were good men, merely passing through as they made a journey. However, they warned Valko that the Bulgarians were gathering to make war upon their Byzantine rules and that someday the battle might near Valko's home. They encouraged him to flee, as they'd seen his people and knew there were no warriors among them save Valko himself. While he knew it was foolish to remain- Valko heeded the words of Syanka and would not leave. Especially not with a child on the way- to travel in such a state was hazardous to the mother. The men respected his decision and praised his courage, although they lamented his stupidity in the same breath. As it had grown quite dark and he had drank a great amount, Valko asked to stay in their camp for the night, to leave on the dawn just as they would. The men heartily agreed and a new round of drinks began. Later, when the moon hid behind the horizon and the sun had yet to rise, Valko found a dagger plunging into his chest once, twice, three times as one of the men sought to kill him. Though he screamed with pain at the attacks- Valko caught at the wrist of his assailant. While the man was strong, Valko's strength was greater than that of ten men, and the contest was over before it began. With one crack the man's hand broke, and with another Valko had struck him directly in the throat. The rest of the group awoke and pleaded with Valko to not slay them- fearful of his wrath. Panting with exertion and spotting the coming dawn, Valko resisted his urge to kill, instead forgiving the men for traveling with a murderer. He waved their tearful thanks and farewells off as they disappeared in the distance- though the news they had brought still worried him. Though he longed for the return of Bulgarian freedom- he worried of a war and the cost. While he could absorb the lives of others- few were so lucky. A war killed many, and the many died and left behind widows and orphans. Whatever his willingness to take a life when justified, Valko feared the deaths of thousands, no matter whose hand guided the blades.

A thief and vagrant, chased down and treed by the dogs, demanded Valko's tenants name a champion to fight for his freedom as he frantically attempted to hold onto his saving grace. The men had no intention of accepting the challenge, one and all perfectly willing to wait for the man to either come down or for someone with an ax to come and solve the dilemma. It was Valko who brought the ax in the end, though he willingly set it aside and accepted the duel. The man descended slowly, no doubt expecting a trick, but Valko was honest and would do the man no harm until he stood fairly upon the ground. As the man climbed, Valko questioned the men what he had stolen to chase him and wish such harm upon him. The men answered that he had stolen the virginity of one of their daughters against her consent. Volko's face was calm as he heard this, but still he waited for the man to gain his feet and draw a short knife. In an instant, the Lord Aleksandrov had caught up the ax and hurled it at his foe- cleanly cutting his head from his shoulders and burying the ax in the tree. Mercy could only be extended so far.
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Age of Myth

Postby Friendlysociopath » Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:10 pm

(The Hall in the Middle of Spring)
Oberon briskly paces back and forth, cape aflutter in the frenzied breeze that seeps back and forth through the room, sending all lesser Fae flying about like so many leaves. Titania sits in her throne with a downcast face as the winds are fulled by the protective enchantments upon the throne- only a slight breeze pulls at her hair. Puck slouches against the side of Oberon's neglected throne, his legs drumming on the floor in merriment at Oberon's wrath.


"Why have you done this?"

You deceived me and stole everything I hold dear, did you expect adoration perhaps?

"I had not thought your tongue capable of such contempt."

You had not thought me capable of changing your spell, yet here you stand, uncrowned and unloved.

"I do not require love and soon I will no longer need a crown. A crown is an ornament to remind those who holds the power. Already all who oppose me have fallen or lie quiet in fear."

You cannot have struck down all the Fae that oppose you as of yet.

"Such confidence for she without power. The number is less than you think. Many Fae care not one way or the other for what happens to mortals- far more were affronted by my elevation. Your court was the last to fall- they fought till the bitter end."

I once thought you a man of love and peace.

"Is that a tear I see, Titania?"

If ever you loved me, you will not make a mockery of those lost.

"I loved you as a Queen and the strongest of the Fae. Now you are the former at my behest and the latter no more and never again. I would not love something so weak as to feel sorry for mortals."

Bastard son of a hexed hen.

"Hurtful words for she that condemned mortals to an eternity of uncertainty."

Better for them to take your path?

"I would've given them paradise. Free from loss and pain."

You would rob them of free will, shackle their desires, deny them their Doors of Fate. This is love? To force one path and never to stray from it?

"I would give them perfection. Each and every one knowing their place and time. Even now prophecies fall to pieces- the order they relied on shattered beyond repair- because of you!"

You brought this upon yourself- why did you desire such a thing?

"I... I no longer remember."

The irony, he who would establish absolute order and certainty does not understand why or how he came to want it.

"It will not trouble me further. Neither will any Fae nor the mortals."

Perhaps. But some will break free- they will shatter the Chains of Fate that bind them.

"Such faith in them is undeserved."

'Maybe had you bedded her better, she would not have flustered you so.'

The bedding was soured somewhat by the rampant theft of my power and position.

'See? Backwards as a burning snowflake.'

Agreed, had he spoken to me beforehand, this entire affair might have turned out better.

"Enough! Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

"And don't pretend you would've worked with me Titania, you would've opposed me every step of the way."

We'll never know.

"I did know. I knew all- every single moment was set in stone the moment I was born."

And yet, this surprised you.

"How Titania? How did you do it? How did you escape my vision of what was to be?"

You do not see what should be.

'She's got you there.'

"Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

"Righteousness does not beget power."

Perhaps not to one who doesn't possess it.

"I know of all magics and powers this world has within it- you can not have done what you did."

Then you cannot be angry for me having done so.

"Woman, continue this evasion and I will kill you."

As you said, the Fae for the most part care not for mortals. We're overfond of tricks as they make eternity less tedious and you have played no small trick on me. But slay me...

'Be a portent of dire proportions.'

"Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

Do you truthfully believe you could defeat all the Fae that would take up arms from my death?

"Obviously I do not- or else you would not be asking me that."

Then there is hope.


'It's known as a belief that things will turn out for the better even if you don't know for sure they will-'

"Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

One who has never faced the unknown would not understand the power of hope.

"I do not need 'hope' or righteousness nor any other fabricated power you claim exists."

That will make your fall from both of them all the sweeter.

'It would certainly have an irony to it.'

"Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

"No Fae still living will move against me while Titania endures. Even should one or two rise up- they will pose no threat alone. I expect a coup within two-score year or so to test my mettle. That will be another task for you."

'I'm rather tired from this adventure, am I not entitled to a few centuries of respite?'

"Silence Puck."

'Of course.'

It is not the Fae you should fear.

"The dragons then? The fire is magical enough to wound us but I'd hardly allow them enough time to kill me."

Amidst the scattered realms, enemies will rise up against you. Sooner or later, tragedy will rear its head.

"The sea? You did strengthen the domain immensely with your follow of breaking apart the continent but I have no interest in setting foot in the waters to test their mettle."

'I believe she was referring to mortals.'

"Silence Puck!"

'Of course.'

"I had not thought you a jester, Titania."

One so wise would do well to not underestimate mortals.

"If this is your 'hope' then I have nothing to fear."

And that is why you will lose.

'A bit of caution might prove useful.'


'Of course.'


Fae Rules plus Puck notes

1. Fae cannot lie. (Can't? Or don't?)
2. To know a Fae's name grants a mortal power over the Fae. (If you've the power to back it up anyways.)
3. Metal forged in flames is deadly. (Anything else hurts like hell but won't do damage.)
4. Fae draw power from Earth, Heavens, or Sea. (The major players anyways. Small change comes from everywhere.)


Titania - Queen of the Fae. Draws power from the Earth.
Oberon - King of the Fae. Draws power from the Heavens.
Puck - Oberon's servant. Draws power from the Heavens.
Possessor - Fae that sails the seas, taking from others whatever they desire. Draws power from the Sea.
Collector - Fae that roams around deserts. When finding notable mortals, he slays them and adds their souls to his whirlwind. Draws power from the Heavens.
Devourer - Fae that hides in ruins. Consumes all that draw near but can no longer gather enough energy to leave. Draws power from the Earth.
Chaser - Fae that seeks a challenge, someone to escape and prove difficult to take down. Draws power from the Earth.
Deceiver - Fae that learns and tells, information is a stream that they direct as they please. Draws power from the Sea.
Wounded - Fae that lost an arm to a mortal weapon. Forged one sword made of many- and strikes as such. Draws power from the Heavens.


Haven't you heard the tales? It's said many a dread creature dwells in the Undershadow of the world- fair beyond the likes of normal man, beast, nor weapon. It is said some ancient barrier prevents them from crossing over- a miracle by any other name.

But while they cannot walk on the surface, the Edge is not beyond their reach. Many a brave explorer has dared draw too close to the Edge- one and all they've vanished without a trace. Entire expeditions have been lost- there one day- gone the next. None have ever returned from trying to find the Edge.

And that, my young lad, is why all maps warn against approaching the Edge; why I tell you now to stay far, far away from the unknown, "Here there be monsters."
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Age of Myth

Postby Friendlysociopath » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:57 am

(The Hall in the Middle of Winter)
Titania sits amidst a pile of falling snow, the flakes dance around her but never dare to land atop her head, even with her power and position lost to her. She continues her silent work- forcing her will through her hands to make a drawing in the snow. A whirlwind springs up and erases her efforts- the wall of snow revealing Oberon and a small child. As always, Puck stands just behind his lord. Oberon thrusts the child forwards and she falls into Titania's lap, sobbing and clutching at her.

"See what your efforts have wrought?"

Am I to be blamed for all mortals now?

"This girl was to be the sacrifice to the mightiest of the Black. Now thanks to your meddling, the prophecy is destroyed and the dragon rampages freely, already he has wiped three villages from the face of the Earth."

'A right shame it is.'

"Silence Puck."

'Of course.'

"She'll remain to serve as a lesson to you. So long as you don't apologize- she will never age nor be able to leave. Should an apology pass those lips and your magic undone- she will be free."

Oberon departed without another word. Puck stayed behind and sat down in the snow himself to watch the interaction between Titania and her newest servant.

Dearest please, I can no longer take away your tears, who are you? What is your story?

Magical or not, Titania's voice could bring calm to any, the girl needed only a few more encouraging remarks before the tears stopped and she responded. "I- I heard a commotion in the village. The elders said a Black something was coming and would only be appeased with the feast of a virgin. I... I don't know what that means- but my uncle heard it. He picked me up and ran from the village. He said nobody could have me like that- not the Elders and not the Black."

Titania's face grew grim as the girl continued, "He... he hurt me. He tore my dress. Then there was this wind and he-" she spun to point at Puck, "He made uncle disappear!"

A heart of gold hidden?

'Don't tempt yourself, Titania. The Black burned the entire place to the ground hours later- his life was lost no matter how it ended.'

Fae can not lie Puck.

'Can not or will not?'

"Wait, please, what happened to uncle? What happened to everyone?"

Silence from you now, Puck?

'Well girl, you were destined to be a sacrifice. Your death would've appeased a great darkness and saved the lives of many. But thanks to Titania, a new path appeared. Previously your uncle would not have the stones to act and all would be fine. I instead had to dirty my hands and remove him, and in my anger I did so one pinch at a time.'

"You did this to me? Everything is gone because you- you- harlot!"

'Silence from you now, Titania?'

The girl crawled away, shivering in the cold and she tried to put distance between herself and Titania. Once she left the Fae influence, the elements began to catch up with her. Her clothing became sodden and wet and her face rapidly turned blue.

'Oberon did insist if she dies- he'll have me fetch another one.'

Titania vanished and appeared behind the girl. She wrapped her arms around the child and held her tight, rocking her back and forth as the sobbing returned.

Cry long, dear daughter, cry long and hard till the pain is gone.

'The Black won't move on for three centuries Oberon expects.'

He blames me for everything now- doesn't he?

'Why not? You broke the world didn't you? What did you imagine the consequences of unraveling destiny would be?'

Puck smiled and waved his hand, recreating Titania's pitiful attempts at writing her name in the snow.

'Then again, I wonder which hurts more, the loss of your power or the knowledge that you've doomed the mortals?'

...Leave us Puck. Go back to your master.

'Of course.'


The sun shines high in the sky, as it has for as long as mortal man remembers. But man can hardly forget the blazing ball of light and heat- for at the Bone Mount there is nothing else for miles around. It is a pristine desert with only sand and rock as far as the eye can see; and the eye can see far from the top of such a spire. The rock resembles the bleached tint of bone- given the mountain its namesake as the top of it spears to just underneath the few clouds that dare to show themselves above the desert. But despite the blinding light that coats it above the ground- below it is a place of darkness.

In a land of eternal light- shadows are scarce. It is for this reason that one of the most feared prisons in the world is cloaked in complete darkness. Each cell is chiseled from solid stone, three men or women will be placed into a single room and restrained by whatever method the jailers see fit. In the dark- who can say what is deserved and what isn't? The prisoners fear to cry out, to scream, so potent is the darkness; almost as though it is a physical force that presses against them. In a world without light- unspeakable acts can occur. While Bone Mount is referred to as a prison- it is considered a place of slow and hideous death. There is no escape from Bone Mount- and only those with nobody else to turn to are locked within. Once every 30 cycles a new caravan arrives, bringing the newest group of prisoners, the latest in the line of dead.

One such line brings two new prisoners among many, and though they aren't aware of it, their shattered world is about to become even more twisted. The caravan provides shaded umbrellas for the unfortunates that travel with them, perhaps the last kindness they will ever know. This mercy is fortunate for a young man who shuffles along. His body is weak and pale, even after walking across the sands for many cycles. He barely has the strength to lift one foot out of the clutching earth to take another step, but still he pushes on. His short and dark hair does not glisten with sweat like the others, his body had long since given up on such an attempt at life; he was hardly more than the walking dead. It is the girl at his side that keeps him going. Her own brow shines with damp red hairs and she fiercely strides across the ground with the boy on her shoulder, each step hurling her body forwards towards the end of the journey. The guards of the caravan did not find her uncomely, and only the thought of pay and reward kept all but their eyes still. Soon, soon the group would reach the base of Bone Mount and enter; and then the girl and every other prisoner they were bringing would be lost to the outside world, forever. The boy and girl are chained together, the iron manacles that bind their hands the only thing imprisoning them as of yet. There need be no other precaution- to flee across the sands was to willing run to your death. No words have passed through their lips in many days, a pointless waste of breath.

At the base of the mountain, an entrance in the stone can be seen. An opening tall enough that three grown men might sit atop one another's shoulders and still not reach the ceiling and so wide that the same three men could walk with their arms outstretched and touch one another and the walls not at all. It is undefended- why would it be? No force would willingly cross the desert- save to rescue a king perhaps. But no king will languish in the Bone Mount- a king is to be seen in public, as a symbol to be remembered, dead to show the new ruler or alive to show they still held the power. Bone Mount is where those who are to be forgotten are sent- and those who wield magic.

The fabled stone of Bone Mount is impervious to sorcery of all kinds. No magic or fabled power can pierce or move through it- it is an insurmountable barrier that cannot be bypassed. It is for this reason that many of the residents are magicians and sorcerers- many of them are held so that someday in the future one of the magic colleges might retrieve them to further analyze their powers and abilities. It's far from the only prison of its kind- but it is by far the most desolate. To be sent here requires that someone be very dangerous or extremely unlucky.

The boy and girl are not dangerous, yet, for which they are lucky. They are unlucky in that they were found out- the boy because his family shames all magical arts- the girl because she has a secret others would desire. They are unluckier still that both were born too near the Bone Mount, even though it had required many cycles for them to be brought there. But fate has one last twist it seemed, one last stroke of luck to give them before they were given a chance to choose their new paths in life. And like most moments of luck- it was such a small thing that brought it forth. A passing failure on the part of a guard to assign them to the correct cell.

Deep into the Bone Mount the prisoners were taken. The guards still had torches so that they might see- so the prisoners were blindfolded. A simple meal of bread and water was administered before they were sent to their cells. The boy and girl were ushered into a dark and chill space- no light would reach here. The boy stumbled briefly over a split in the rocky floor and then the barrier of stone moved- sealing them off from the rest of the world. They would not suffocate- tiny pores in the rock would see to that- but otherwise they were as isolated as one could be. But they were not alone. Some other being had occupied the chamber before them, and with the arrival of these new guests, a voice heavy with disuse spoke.

"Which of you can see?"

Neither the boy or girl responded for some time. The voice seemed content to wait them out. Eventually the girl answered, "What do you mean?"

"Every soul that has entered this cell has tripped over that rock- save you. How do you see?"

The answer came sooner this time, along with a generous tint of resignation, "I suppose it can't hurt now. There is a weapon I came across, it bonded to me and remains within. There is a being that forms the core of it- and he sees without eyes so darkness is no impediment to him."

"A sentient weapon then, rare, but not impossible." The voice seemed unconcerned, even though the girl's secret had brought her over a hundred miles to be stuffed into this hell. "And you, the other one, why are you here?"

The boy stiffened, his voice held a slightly arrogant air as he responded, "Who are you to ask us such questions?"

A low chuckle was the answer, "A humble trapped necromancer am I, no more, no less; though perhaps not anymore."

"Why?" the girl asked, "Are you not a necromancer now?"

"Ah, wit to go with the hidden weapon, a compelling combination. It's quite simple really- I need a body."
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Zone Magic (standalone?)

Postby Friendlysociopath » Sun Feb 11, 2018 1:29 pm

Every mage exudes a [Zone] when they access their magic.
The [Zone] forms a circular field that varies in size based on the power of the mage and will move with them instead of remaining still.
A [Zone] moves and makes magic unseen- it cannot be heard, cannot be felt, it cannot be tasted and cannot be smelt.
The mages can cast spells from anywhere their [Zone] touches. The spell consumes the portion of [Zone] involved- though the [Zone] will replenish in time.
While the mage must know the spell- the [Zone] creates and casts it.
Each mage is born with at least one spell that they can use.
Spells can also be Enchanted into objects- which when done correctly allows another mage to Learn them.

Mages are judged based on several stats:
Size, Restoration, and Learning are Power stats.
Focus, Complexity, and Perception are Skill stats.
Practice and study can increase a Skill stat. The only way to increase a Power stat is to defeat another mage.
Defeating a mage grants you their Zone and any spells they know.(edited)
Size is how large your Zone is- the definitive method for gauging Power.
Focus is how well you can move magic through your Zone- the definitive method for gauging Skill.
Complexity is how many spells you can have your Zone create at once.
Restoration is how quickly your Zone replenishes from using a spell.
Perception is how well you can sense anything in your Zone.
And Learning is how quickly you can cast a new spell you've obtained.

Spells tend to fall into several types: touch, area, travel, self.
Self spells tend to be specifically only for the user- typically augmenting the body in some way while the Zone maintains the spell.
Touch spells tend to require the mage to touch something to fully actualize the magic inside of their Zone.
Area spells tend to function only within the Zone but do not require a touch and can work on other things besides the mage's body.
Travel spells tend to be propelled in one direction or another- they can exist outside of the Zone but rapidly lose power.
with some semblance of independent sentience.

Protagonist starting spells - type - function
View - Self spell - The spell the protagonist is born with. Allows him to see Zone boundaries as thin, faintly shimmering outlines. Thus far nobody else has shown this spell.
De-Spark - Area spell - Prevents minor sparks from occurring in the mage's Zone when activated.
Pull - Touch spell - The mage can touch two or more objects and force one or more of them to move to the other. The objects do not need to be touched again to use the spell unless the object leaves his Zone.


Sparks flew out from the metallic monster I was locked in combat with- blinding me briefly before I threw the thing aside with a curse after pulling it down from the ceiling. It scraped along the top of the counter before coming to a stop a few feet from the trembling older man who was watching me. I blinked rapidly to clear my vision as I called to him.

"Yeah, someone hexed your shop."

The shop owner, in something akin to tears, cradled the broken camera like it was his child; the ages certainly allowed it. The guy had to have been around in World War 2 and the camera can't have that many years on him. The small grocery store he had was undoubtedly just as aged. At the moment it was closed to the public on account of my visit- which was a good call. Mages attracted other mages and that inevitably ended poorly.

I climbed down the ladder and gestured at the broken device, "The bad news is that every wire in your camera has been stripped to the point where you're lucky the things haven't burst into flames- there's cuts all over the thing. The good news is that it didn't light up before you called it in and the better news is that it's not a renewing enchantment- so any replacements you install won't be affected unless the mage comes back."

"But..." the fellow looked up as tears crawled down his face and tried to hide in the scraggly white beard he was trying to grow out. "How will I know if he comes back? How will I know who he is?"

I let out a breath of heavy air, this part of the job never got easier. "You can't. You're not a mage so you can't detect magic. You're not a private citizen so anyone can and will walk through that door to buy something from you. Anyone you serve can be a mage who holds a grudge for any reason. I'm sorry."

I really was. It sucked to tell the normies that but... there really wasn't a way of helping him. I walked over to his door and flipped the sign from 'closed' to 'open' in hopes that he might get some customers in today yet. A few sales might lighten his mood. The action certainly spurred him into motion- he set the camera behind the counter and gave the gleaming surface a precautionary dusting to make sure it was clean. It was a wasted effort since the place was admirably spotless- but the routine seemed to have lifted his spirits somewhat.

"Is it- is it possible he won't think it's worth the effort to do it again?" A brief glimmer of hope had reached the old man, Jeffrey Jummer the invoice had said his name was, and I didn't want to take it away from him.

"It's possible." I wasn't even lying, it was possible, just about anything was nowadays. "It wasn't an enchantment that would be renewed whenever he brought his Zone up near here- so either he didn't plan on coming back to keep the enchantment up or he didn't hate you enough to take down your camera more than once."

Meanwhile, his mind seemed to be going back over my earlier statements about his powerlessness. "You're a mage though- can't you use magic on the store to keep this from happening? Or maybe you can stay here and stop him from doing it again!"

"No." Unlike my earlier sympathetic tone, this was my, 'I-am-not-considering-that' voice, I reserved it for when I was asked to do something I really, really didn't want to do- like having a rusted fork inserted underneath my fingernails. "I'm sorry but I don't have any spells that would protect your store. And private duels have been banned for thirteen years now."

"They happen every day!" Jeffrey exclaimed in disbelief.

"It's wrong every day." I muttered under my breath. Unregistered dueling was illegal worldwide- you couldn't run a society where two random people could run into one another and blow up an entire street. In practice, all this had done was ensure mages were more low-key about it. I spoke up louder to be certain Jeffrey heard me, "If you want a guard-mage, call the police and explain the situation. Not only do I not want to do that, legally I can't." The law might not matter to everyone- but it did to me.

Jeffrey took his turn to sigh at that, "They're short-staffed. They're always short-staffed- the Shift made the entire world the Wild West again- except now we don't even know who has the guns thanks to damned mages..." he looked over at me and started, like he'd forgotten I myself was a mage, "No offense meant, of course."

"No problem." I responded easily. The less people who thought I might be a mage- the safer I would be. Most normies still clung to the idea that a magician had to look like Gandalf or the Wicked Witch of the West for some reason- I didn't look anything like Ian McKellen and I certainly didn't resemble anyone's idea of a witch. I'd be pegged as a zombie or skeleton long before a normal person assumed I could use magic- not that I'd cast a single spell here yet to begin with. "You're all paid up since I'm not actually fixing anything- the advance payment is meant to cover me coming out here and inspecting the premises. I'll be on my way then."

"Wait!" The venerable shop-keep called out to me, "You can't possibly be considering only the advance fee? It was only fifty dollars!"

"Yeah well, what can I say, magic doesn't pay." I didn't hold a grudge against the government, much, for the mage laws. It wasn't easy to run an economy when any random moron could walk around violating the laws of physics. The Vegas Strip had rioted four times this month because some random bastard had won a spell in the lottery that let him turn anything he touched to gold. But a lot of those laws made it very difficult to be paid for magic: a mage could only receive payment for very clear and obvious services rendered- not services promised, not services hinted at, and most definitely not services intended but ultimately not done. Since the use of magic was almost impossible to prove- any registered mage basically lost the right to be paid for a service not explicitly recorded and shown in some way. In short, if I could've fixed his broken cameras if they were salvageable, I'd be able to charge him for the obvious proof that I had done something for him. Advice was already covered in the advance fee- other than that all I'd done was give the place a good once-over with my Zone to make sure no active magic was around. My services were something my employers desperately needed but also one they couldn't pay for- and neither could the clients. Likewise the firm couldn't charge for something that hadn't been done. I knew a lot of the staff sympathized with me- but there was no way out of it.

"But please- I can't afford for this to happen again!" Jeffrey was, understandably, worried; if a mage did indeed want to camp out his store- he was screwed. "I still have the note!"

"Note?" He hadn't mentioned a note before. "Alright, that's time for police if they're leaving you notes. I'm a repairman, not a detective."

"Just look at it? Please?" I reluctantly took the paper from him and glanced at it. The message was blunt and unhelpful, 'Don't call the police.' The paper itself had clearly been folded up many times to fit in a pocket- over and over again. Otherwise it was a piece of normal paper and ink.

"Mr. Jummer, I'm sorry, but what am I supposed to do with this? Your mage left you a note saying he doesn't want you to call the police after he vandalized your store- there's nothing I can do about that." I tried looking at his clock but clearly the batteries were dead, it insisted it was around 8 of either AM or PM, both of which were definitely wrong. I reached a hand into my faded jeans and hauled out my cell to check the time. No smart screen here- just a slider phone with the basic calling buttons. Every teen within miles probably winced in pain at me opening the thing. It read half past three, meaning I still had some time left before having to leave.

"I suppose I'll just have to hope you're right and this was a one-time issue." Jeffrey had visibly deflated from his earlier glimmer of hope, but he looked less despondent than when he'd thought his store was cursed. I'd have to call that a win. I caught a flash of red out of my eye and saw the refrigerator behind his counter had drinks- including a certain familiar crimson label.

"Tell you what, if you give me a Coke, I'll agree to swing by again in three days to check on your shop." It would be Saturday, I wasn't due to work but I didn't exactly have anything else to fill my time.

He fairly beamed with joy at being able to give me something for my services. I respected that- it was an honor among hard workers who knew when someone did something for you- you did something for them. He clearly hadn't considered us even and so this minor offer helped him feel like the scales were balanced and reassured him he wasn't on his own to boot. He handed me the Coca Cola bottle with delight and I myself pretty eagerly clasped the drink myself. As the door of his fridge shut, two things occurred to me. The first was that the bottle was cold and the second was that the only electronic thing still working in the store was the fridge. His cameras were shorted out beyond belief, his clock was dead, and the lights hadn't needed to be turned on yet- but at the moment I would've put money on them not functioning either.

I opened up my Zone, feeling the magical field extend from me in all directions and envelop the store. While earlier I had looked for active magic- I had particularly focused on the cameras- not the entire store. I focused on electric appliances and my Zone responded, feeding me information directly as it examined the relevant areas. The cords leading to the light were like-wise massacred, as was the small ones attaching the clock to the wall, all with surprisingly uniform slices that would prevent enough power from getting through- and being extremely likely for sparking. Even the fridge's wiring had been destroyed.

I didn't need to scan the fridge for magic, but I checked anyways before I asked Jeffrey a new question, "Your fridge is enchanted, isn't it?"

He looked surprised but nodded, "Yes, it was a gift from a bum I sold some food to. He didn't have any money so he enchanted the fridge to always be cool. He stops by once a week to top it off and get a few sandwiches- he usually shows up a bit after the kids leave."

Kids huh? "Do those kids ever steal?"

"Heavens no." He seemed surprised at the thought. "I've known those boys since they were babes in their parents' arms. The camera is for watching at night in case some hooligan smashes through the window- not for theft."

I idly tapped my finger on my cold drink. The note had been folded and put away again and again, like someone had repeatedly taken it out to read it and then replaced it in their pocket. Someone nervous then- who wanted to check what they had with them. Everything in the store that had wires had been targeted by the spell- so the mage either hadn't bothered to focus the magic or couldn't focus it. Contrary to popular belief, even mages didn't waste magic for the hell of it, casting a spell made you visible if another mage had their Zone up and you were in it- which was why I hadn't bothered activating my spell that snuffed out sparks earlier. If you used a spell it was because you wanted something done, you planned it for a reason.

A kid who didn't steal would have no reason to take out the camera. Kids these days had phones practically attached to their hips so there was no reason to take out the clock that I could even think of. Kids who came here all the time during the day wouldn't bother attacking the lights would they? That left the fridge...

"So you're like a parent to these boys?"

"Well, perhaps a grandfather, I knew quite a few of their parents long before the boys were born."

I unexpectedly burst into a short laugh, two brief gusts of mirth one after the other. "Are they coming in soon?"

Jeffrey looked out the door, "Actually yes, the bus just drove past so they should be popping in any minute."

Well that was lucky, I immediately retreated to the farthest corner of the shop and pretended to survey the shelves. Approximately five minutes later, I heard to bell jingle to indicate the door opened. With my Zone still up, identifying the kids was easy even with my back turned to them.

There were three of them, I wasn't interested enough to do much more than getting size specifications. A tall one in a blue hood with a matching blue backpack, a smaller but more athletic one in a regular white t-shirt without any bag, and the third one was of average height but wearing such a heavy black coat that he looked like he could weigh 200 pounds if you just looked at his profile and couldn't tell underneath the thing he was relatively skinny. I waited until they walked up to the counter before turning and raising my Coke in the air and calling out in a rowdy voice.

"Yo- this thing is piss-warm old man!"

I'm not the best reader of people, and I'd not put the work into making my Zone good at it, but even I can tell the difference between surprise and gloating. Two boys reacted with the former, the other tried to conceal the latter, but I caught his smirk perfectly fine with my eyes. The skinny one with the obnoxiously large coat, likely because at least one of his parents had insisted he wear the thickest coat he had since it was still winter- even though it was relatively warm outside at 30 degrees. Overprotective? Overbearing?

I walked forwards in mock outrage, "How could you sell me this? What's the matter with you?" Upon reaching the counter, I turned and conspiratorially leaned towards the teens. "Can one of you hold this for me?" Without waiting for a response- I shoved the coke towards the coated boy. His face gave confusion when I handed him the cold drink, which was to be expected as I'd shouted it was warm, but the anger that appeared on it afterwords was out of place for something like this- he was angry the drink was cold. It was gone a second later, of course, teens either wear their emotions on their sleeves or they're the best liars ever to walk the face of the Earth; but I had him.

Jeffrey was stupefied, "But... you know it's not warm! We were just talking about the fridge and how it's enchanted!"

I kept my eyes on coat-boy. "Your next talk might be with their parents. I'm betting one of them tried that trick at home too- and unless he's unusually good at it- I expect there was a lot of missing and hitting unexpected appliances. Hopefully he took precautions, repeated attempts would've been pretty easy to see if another mage was around."

And there was the emotion to seal the deal- fear. Rampant, unchecked, fear. Coat-boy suddenly realized that he was using magic in a world where that was all the reason anyone would ever need to kill him. He also dropped my Coke, I leaned down and swiped the thing back into my hand before it could hit the floor. I couldn't see his Zone right now, but if he had it up he wasn't using that spell to destroy wires, I wasn't sure whether that would hurt my ancient phone or not but I didn't want to test that idea.

Jeffrey seemed to have caught on at this point, "Shaun? Did you do this? Why?" he sounded genuinely hurt, and probably was if what he'd said about the boys being practically grandchildren to him had any merit.

Shaun, to his credit, hadn't run away screaming and looked Jeffrey in the eye as he responded. "Well, I really wanted a pop, but you wouldn't sell one to me even though I brought money. I just got really mad and... and... I did it at home when thinking about it. Everything in my room doesn't work now- I thought if I did it here before you opened then you'd have to get rid of the pop anyways when we came by since you couldn't sell warm pop."

The 'it' he kept referring to was magic, a spell, likely his birth-spell since he clearly was new to this and couldn't aim the thing for shit. Lucky for him, that meant he'd only cast it twice or so, so the odds were in his favor nobody had spotted him. Every mage was born with at least one spell- but when they actually gained the ability to manifest a Zone that could cast the spell varied greatly. I could think of a lot of uses for frying electronics- none of them good. I also didn't think much of his plan but then again, clearly he hadn't put a great deal of thought into it either. Learning you could use magic tended to scatter your brains for a bit. More than one mage had been caught and thrown in jail for doing something stupid within the first 72 hours of gaining his power. Usually after that they realized their limitations... or they were dead.

Jeffrey at this point was in tears and almost hugging the boy as he promised he would talk to his mother and her war on unhealthy foods and how it wouldn't hurt a growing boy to have pop in his life. I slapped a hand down on the counter, hard, to get everyone's attention. Mystery solved or not- the kid had a problem now.

"Right, Shaun is it?" He slowly nodded as he put two and two together- I wasn't much taller than any of them but I was clearly an adult that knew about magic and had predicted him almost perfectly- I was scary. I slowly held up both hands in a universal symbol of surrender. "I know this is new to you- but if you're really starting to use magic then you need your parents on-board and you need to take certain steps."

Now Shaun was the one starting to cry, "But I won't use it! This was just once!"

"It's always 'just once'. Except you haven't trained and so you can't control it. And if you can't control it- it will happen again. And if it happens again- there is always a chance another mage will see it and try to take it from you. You know how that ends." He did. I did. Jeffrey did. Everyone did. A mage could obtain a spell from another mage in two ways. The first was a willing cast from the original holder that endowed another object with a copy of the spell. That object could be studied until the new user could successfully absorb the spell into his own Zone, at which point it would be no different from any other spell. Open Source Spellcasting it was called. The second way was what normally happened if a user didn't have the control to copy the spell into an object or refused to- the second way was being forced to give it up by another mage. They already had names for that: murder, homicide, execution- death.

A child with no control would never be able to accomplish the first. That's why kids who exhibited signs of magic had to be relocated. There were special schools just for them- heavily monitored and full of professional (equally monitored) mages to try and instruct them in using their magic correctly- ideally while bombarding the kids with morals and typical school stuff such as English, Math, and the like. In other words, he had to go into the Mage Protection Program. He would leave his school, likely his neighborhood and his friends, and be sent away. His parents might not see him again for years, coming back wouldn't be allowed unless he made enough progress in controlling his new power and getting in to visit wouldn't be easy; detecting mages was a difficult business in the best of times and the easiest way to keep hostile forces out way to turn away everyone.

But his pals surprised me. Both of them reached forwards (and up in the case of the shorter one) to touch Shaun's shoulders. "Listen man, if you need that then you need it." The smaller one's voice was quite calm and he spoke with the slight accent of someone that could rapid-fire Spanish if he needed to. "You might be gone but once you're better you can come back easy! Me and Danathan aren't going anywhere- he's never gonna make it into college and I'm sticking with my dad's auto-shop."

'Danathan' swatted the smaller boy on the back of the head with his free hand, "Ass, don't call me that. But seriously Shaun, I'd rather you be safe and learning than here and dead. Your mom and dad would too."

I stretched over the counter and ripped off a sticky-note from the stack Jeffrey had hidden back there along with a pen. I scribbled a number and a name on it and handed the yellow paper to Shaun. "Tell your parents if you haven't already. Give them this number and tell them to ask for Sophie. She'll be very happy to help you out."

"Can't you call?" Shaun held the paper back out to me, "If she knows you won't she want to hear you?"

I gave him a tired smile, "She's my cousin- she hears me plenty." I walked out the door and took a careful look both ways down the street before enacting my own birth-spell, View. I turned around to see Shaun's Zone make a small sphere around him where it touched things like the floor and various store shelves. The edges were a vibrant orange and sprayed outwards like transparent sparks were leaping off of the objects it was touching. I was outside his Zone so he wouldn't have seen me cast the spell nor would he see the active aura it made around me. I took a step back to enter his Zone so he could get a look at however his Zone interpreted my spell. His eyes opened in shock as his Zone registered this new magic in front of him- though he likely could make no headway at all at understanding what the spell was. I made a finger-gun at him with my free hand and winked.

"Good luck Shaun, you're gonna need it."


Hours later, Shaun and his mother sat in their small living room without speaking. His mother's cell was sitting on the table in front of them- set to speaker so they could all hear every word. There wouldn't be any secrets tonight- both of them knew the dangerous world Shaun was entering. Eventually the hold music they'd been stuck on vanished and a cheerful female voice jumped out of the phone.

"Hello, my name is Sophie, how may I help you?"

Shaun's mother cleared her throat, "Hello Sophie, my name is Galla Finelle, my son's name is Shaun; Shaun Finelle. He... he's started to use magic."

There was a second of silence before the cheeriness vanished and the woman's voice took on a more serious note. "Alright Mrs. Finelle, let me start off by telling you that this is not the end of the world. Shaun is still your son and is still a human being- he just needs special attention. Is Shaun stable enough to schedule an appointment or do you need him moved right now?"

Shaun waited for his mother to nod before speaking, "Hello miss Sophie. I'm Shaun and I think I can stop it. I only used it before when I was mad and I couldn't do it again for hours." He had, in fact, been unable to use the spell at all when he first arrived at the store. He'd lost almost 30 minutes waiting there before he felt the surge of power that meant he'd used the magic. That was almost ten hours in-between uses. "But I'd really like to get there as soon as possible."

"Really?" Sophie seemed surprised, "Usually new mages and their families try quite hard to not come in. I'm not complaining but why the rush?"

"Umm, I met a man in Mr. Jummer's store and he said to call you."

"Can you describe the man? Did he give you his name?"

"Uhhhh." Shaun thought about the encounter and determined that no, the man had not ever given his name. "No. He just warned me that everything was dangerous and I had to call you right away. He was in there to fix cameras or something."

"Let me guess-" Sophie's voice had become amused, "Did he have light grey-ish hair and glasses? Not tall at all but pretty thin? Big baggy hood and baggier track pants?"

"Yeah!" Shaun exclaimed, "He said he was your cousin too."

Sophie started giggling from the other end, "He's the son of my mother's brother. If you two are certain you can hold out until morning, you can be here as early as 7AM and I'll let you in myself. Don't worry about skipping out on your school- we'll be contacting them shortly to get your records and grades transferred."

The relief in Shaun's mother's voice was obvious. "Thank you Sophie. Is there anything Shaun needs to bring? A birth certificate? My bank account information?"

"Not at all." Sophie assured her through the speaker, "The school operates on a government fund- you'll pay nothing unless you want to donate. We don't need anything other than your contact information and that's strictly for your benefit- not his. Though if there's anything he wants to have with him from the first day like certain clothes, toys, or accessories- you should bring those tomorrow. He won't be leaving the grounds for at least three weeks at a minimum. You and your husband are welcome to visit but-"

"There is no husband." Shaun's mom clenched her fists. "It's just us."

"Well that's fine too." Sophie quickly said. "If you grab a paper and pencil- I'll give you the address right now. We don't show up on Google so I hope you pay attention. If you have no further questions then I'll see you tomorrow. And Shaun?"

He leaned forwards, "Yes?"

Sophie's voice took on a note of concerned warmth, "I'm looking forwards to meeting you. Just try to make sure you keep control for a little while longer and you'll be safe- I promise."


Twelve hours later, Shaun and his mother stood outside a fairly modest-looking series of buildings. There were three in total and they were uniformly made of brick and each was connected at the 2nd story by hallways. Curiously, each building had a circular tower rising up from the far end, making the six towers form a triangle. The entire group was surrounded by two fences. The closest one was iron bars and encircled the area marked "Newcomer Parking" but left another completed stone or maybe cement fence closer to the buildings. Shaun didn't really understand what he was seeing- but the closest section of the iron fence looked like it was glowing with dripping purple liquid to him. His mother couldn't see any such thing.

A SUV pulled up and Shaun tensed up before the window rolled down, revealing a young woman with long brown hair. He could definitely see Sophie's resemblance to the guy he'd met in the store- they had similar blue eyes and even shared a nose. Her hair wasn't at all like his grey stuff though. She waved at the both of them.

"Climb on in. I'm glad to see you both."

Without a word, Shaun hefted his duffel bag over his shoulder and opened the passenger door. To his surprise, two small girls were sitting in the back. The older one seemed to be about four years old, the other was some younger baby-age that Shaun couldn't identify. His mother opened the passenger-side door and slid in up front. Sophie gave her a second warm greeting before handing Shaun's mother some papers and changing gear to start the drive up to the second gate. Shaun blinked as the driveway they were on seemed to shimmer like a black-top on a hot day- even though it was clearly concrete. The glowing fence followed them along- but Shaun could only see the purple substance on the parts of the fence he was closest to.

It was only after Shaun checked his phone that he realized fifteen minutes had passed and they still hadn't traveled the couple-hundred feet to the second fence. He leaned in-between the conversing adults to get a look ahead. He blinked in confusion as the buildings didn't seem to have grown any closer despite them driving the entire time. Sophie noted his puzzled face and smiled. The conversation the mothers had been sharing was opened to include him.

"As you can see Shaun, Mrs. Finelle, some of our precautions are magical in nature. We spared no expense in finding some of the most potent spells to keep the children safe. Enchantments of all kinds line the grounds and our staff are very thoroughly vetted. We actually won't be able to actually reach the 2nd gate without the gatekeeper determining we have no intention of harming anyone on the premises."

Almost on-cue, Shaun realized they were actually gaining ground. They pulled up next to a gatehouse that to Shaun's eye was pulsing in and out, in and out, almost like it could breathe. For the life of him he couldn't comprehend what he was seeing. Before his eyes the movement changed- become more of a swaying like a flag in the wind. The man inside stepped out and Shaun gasped at the sight. He remembered the weirdness that had surrounded the shop-man and how it had given him a headache to look at it- this guy seemed to physically be pushing Shaun back just by being near him. He felt himself leaning backwards as hard as he could into the door- digging his feet in and trying to get as far away as possible.

"Vincent- stop that. You're scaring him." Sophie scolded the man. Shaun couldn't even make out a face or much of anything beyond the swirling lights. He got the sense that the man nodded because the gates opened and Sophie pulled through. Shaun's ragged panting caught her attention and she came to a stop and offered him a drink of water. His mother like-wise looked concerned.

"Shaun, honey, what's wrong?"

Sophie answered, "Newer students are often stunned by the amount of magic some of the staff have, especially security staff since they have so many spells active at once. It's unusual to see such high-profile mages up-close like that. To put it bluntly- we've got some of the best but they're intimidating to other mages."

"How..." Shaun drank some more before continuing, "How did you get them all to work here if they're so good?" His previous school, while nice in its own way, had most definitely not been able to afford the best teachers, or books, or equipment or... anything really.

"Remember my cousin?"

Shaun nodded, "Yeah?"

Sophie smiled, it was a warm smile, the sort you liked to see when you wanted everything to be okay; a smile only a mother could give. "I can't speak for other mage-schools but he's the reason this particular group got together. They're all here as a favor to him."

"You still haven't told us his name." Shaun's mother interjected, "At this rate he'll come across as a secret agent instead of a repairman. I'm frankly concerned about this mysterious mage who accosted my son and insisted he come here or face death."

"Oh right, he doesn't often give out his name, but he wasn't big on doing that even before he was a mage. A lot of mages are like that nowadays- a name makes you easier to track. He goes by Zack."

"Is that his real name?" Shaun asked, "Is Sophie your real name?"

"Well, yes and no. If you look at our birth certificates then no, they won't have those names on them. However they are what we've answered to for years and nowadays mages and direct relatives can special-order licenses and fill out forms in the new names. Every teacher you'll have here will be the same- they'd be famous enough to attract threats to their family if they used their real names."

"And what, pray tell, did 'Zack' do to gather such a group of top-class talent to guard children like my son?"

"Welllll," Sophie pulled into the parking lot and turned off the SUV, "he kinda saved all their lives thirteen years ago- about a year into the Shift but before we'd fully stabilized from it. I was eleven at the time so he would've been twelve..."
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Re: Short Stories

Postby Friendlysociopath » Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:21 pm

The Shift
The Calm
The Storm

Three months into the Shift...

Happy birthday to me... Zack trudged through the rain, the newly-celebrated 12-year-old walked alone and despondent- and afraid. The city around him was dark and quiet- and why wouldn't it be? A curfew was in effect- mages were in the area. Public notices had gone out but Zack didn't need them- he already knew. One of those mages had just wiped out most of his family. He couldn't stop to to think about it- the heaviness of the loss was crouching behind him almost like a physical thing. Once he acknowledged it- he felt a certainty that he would not move again for some time, if ever.

Zack's heart jumped in his chest as he saw two Zones emerge from opposite sides of the street a good forty feet down the road. He couldn't see the mages controlling them for the buildings in the way and he couldn't see the magic either since they weren't in his own Zone- but the four glowing balls of fire didn't need magical sight to be spotted after they were conjured. They fired from one Zone and flew forwards out of sight into the other. One detonated just as it entered the opposing mage's Zone- the orb was three feet from the ground before it ruptured. The resulting blast blew apart all the nearby windows- showering the street with glass and leaving a crater large enough to swallow a small car that opened up the sewers beneath the road. Screams started coming from all affected apartments as the occupants realized a mage duel was happening far too close for comfort.

Zack turned and ran. He could tell that their Zones wouldn't reach him and so they wouldn't see his spell- but he couldn't risk them getting closer. He'd called it View since it let him see mage Zones- something nobody else seemed to be capable of. It was pretty useful to see who was a mage so easily- but the moment he set foot in any of their Zones they could tell he was a mage right away. He couldn't turn it off. As always, he tried to shift it, move it, do anything to get the spell to leave him alone so he could hide; nothing worked. It was a double-edged sword. He could spot mages at a distance if they had their Zones up. But if he entered one- he would instantly be revealed.

He splashed through the streets as more explosions sounded off behind him. Either the mages were evenly matched enough to make it a fight or the fireball one just loved blowing things up. Zack quietly ducked into an alley and saw a dumpster- it would have to do. He ran up to the thing and pushed up on the lid- for once a stroke of luck. It was empty and didn't even smell bad- or his running nose was blocking all the scents it had. Either way he needed in- he could practically feel his body giving out from lack of rest. It had to have been... 23 hours straight of running around the city? It was hard keeping track of time... He shook his head back and forth to try and focus. Unfortunately, he couldn't enter the bin, he wasn't tall enough and his wet clothes and backpack were weighing him down. A normal person might've thrown the bag into the bin and then tried again when they were lighter. A normal person might've been stupid- because if they still couldn't pull it off they'd have lost their pack. Zack did the next best thing- he used magic.

He felt his Zone already enveloping the dumpster- it was through its power that he knew the bin was empty and clean. It wasn't a large Zone by any means, the sphere was only perhaps as long as he was tall as it formed a bubble around him in every direction. He knew without any doubt the View spell he had stuck on him was keeping the Zone smaller than it should be and made regrowing it slower- just like anyone would know water was wet. Mages simply knew the magic in their Zones without question if it was theirs. It was a good thing too- because Zack didn't think he ever would've guessed what Pull did any other way. He reached up and smacked each front corner of the dumpster before doing the same to the ground at his feet. He then took three steps back- far enough that he wasn't near the dumpster but close enough that all his touched points were still in his Zone. Then, he willed the magic to act.

There were no glowing jets of light, no magic words or waving of the hands like he'd seen in the movies; Zack's Zone simply created magical energy at the places he'd previously touched and Pulled the objects together. The parts of the dumpster he'd laid his hands on immediately pitched forwards to meet the spots on the ground to which he'd done the same. BANG. The dumpster was now horizontal and would make a nice tent for the moment. Zack's Zone had shuddered and shrank perhaps half a foot in diameter, now if two of him were to lie down head to toe- they would no longer fit inside the sphere. He knew from experience that it would take around an hour for it to return to normal size (he blamed his View spell- which he still couldn't figure out how to turn off) but at the moment he didn't care. He popped open a hatch and crawled inside his momentary safe haven. It wouldn't protect him from a mage's Zone but dying from cold and rain wouldn't help him either.

The first act was to get warm and dry. Zack hurriedly took off his clothes and replaced them with substitute clothing from his pack. They weren't dry, far from it, but they weren't so wet that he produced a small puddle when he stood still. The drenched clothing he threw outside- he couldn't dry them and keeping them in here would just make him wet again. The shirt and pants he had left were tight and small, but they were all he had left aside from his blanket- which had by some miracle stayed dry. He pulled the blue fabric tight around himself to try and still the shivering. He'd only intended to stay for a few minutes- he had to keep on the move to ensure he stayed out of any Zones. But he was so tired... he tried to stay awake- but he hadn't stopped running for so long, only ever sleeping in bursts of a few minutes, and the dumpster was surprisingly nice... Before he could stop himself- Zack fell asleep to the drumming of rain and the distant sound of explosions.


Meanwhile, only perhaps a block away, two mages were putting significant effort into killing one another. While the battle had started with each across the street- rampant use of spells had forced both combatants to move closer and closer to one another to conserve their Zones. A human observer would've noted they were rapidly closing the distance between them from the hundreds of feet previously to less than fifty- though none dared to look out their windows to see.

One mage stood unusually tall, there was not a bit of hair to be seen on his entire head and he had covered himself in a large transparent poncho to keep himself dry- reducing the body underneath to a dark blur. His opponent was a gangly youth with bright purple hair that was cropped short- though whatever style it may have had was lost beneath the torrential downpour. Unlike the bald man- the purple youth wore no shirt at all and appeared to revel in being drenched by the rain. His only clothing was a pair of utterly drenched jeans that clung to his legs.

Even discounting their attire, the two mages could not have been more different. The youth was capering back and forth like a madman, screaming and laughing in abandon as he zig-zagged his way towards the bald man. As he ran he waved his arms and legs about- performing cartwheels and flips of acrobatic skill. Sometimes he brought both hands down to the street and splashed water into the air. Had a normal human watched the combat, they would've been hard-pressed to say exactly what he was attempting to do. His opponent's fireballs were quite obvious but what the youth was doing to prevent them from reaching him was difficult, if not impossible, to see with the naked eye.

To the youth though, it was as plain as day. His spell conjured magical energy out of the thin air at the edges of his Zone- it brought together the water in the air, forming a solid sphere in the blink of an eye. The ambient rain reduced the cost of the spell dramatically by putting so much water in his Zone, allowing him to create much larger orbs than ever before. Every time a fireball reached his Zone- the drops of rain condensed into a sphere half a dozen feet in diameter- forming around it in an instant and detonating the blast before the human eye could properly see the shape form. His defense was perfect- he was a god in the rain! An astute observer, if one had dared to get close enough, would've noticed his pupils had constricted to barely visible; the effects of speed worked less on a mage than it would a normal human- but enough of it made the distinction meaningless. He could feel a state of incredible focus- like every different raindrop was his to command!

The bald fellow kept his calm as his opponent rapidly drew closer and closer. He'd initially been taking a calm step forwards every few seconds to close on his enemy but now he held his ground, keeping track of his Zone as he continued forming fireballs off to either side and above before exerting his will to send them towards the approaching madman. He took no steps forwards or back, he didn't wave his arms, he shouted nothing, said nothing, he was immobile- the only motion was the twitching of his eyes as he focused on the Zone of the water-user. Intentionally or not, he was able to tell exactly where his opposition's Zone was because his fireballs wouldn't make it through. Not one, two, three, or four at a time- each would be picked off and destroyed the moment they came close enough. The street behind the boy was littered with craters as the capering and jabbering fool made his way closer and closer. Eventually, the distance between them shrank to almost fifteen feet. Both of them were well within the Zone of the other now.

"Gimme that Zone!" the water-user screamed in delight. Streams of water solidified into existence around the still figure, within a second he would be enveloped by the vertical river and drowned. His energetic movements slowed with confusion as the fire-user smiled even with strands of water wrapping around his neck- suddenly there wasn't one, two, three, or four fireballs to block- there were six and they all came at him in a straight line. The youth grinned and waved his arms- until he realized to his horror what had happened. He'd only ever used his Zone directly in front of him to block the fireballs. His Zone was practically non-existent between him and his enemy while to the sides and behind it was as full as ever. The rain had made it easier for the effect to form yes- but it hadn't negated the cost. His opponent had spread out his casting mostly to his sides and above- leaving the front of his Zone intact and at full capacity. The sputtering youth frantically tried to manipulate his remaining Zone- to conjure up the water and move it into position- but this time he was too slow. His concentration went haywire- he panicked- and the waters tried to accommodate his crazed demands to make a shield. The six fireballs reached his body and surrounded him- clinging and scorching his body ever so briefly with their contact as his waters surrounded him- creating walls over seven feet thick all around him that whirled around like an above-ground whirlpool. It would've been a more than suitable shield to deflect the attack had it formed in time- but he'd been too slow and unable to focus under pressure- and now the danger was trapped inside. He didn't even have time to scream from the burning spheres touching him before they detonated.

The explosion, while muted by the barriers, was still enough to blow a much larger crater in the road; had the fire-man not directed the explosions away from him- he might've been injured from his own spell. Instead, the crater stretched outwards in an arc away from him- over twenty feet of road had been blown to pieces. Of his former enemy- there was no sign. But the Zone- the Zone and spells were all he needed. The bald man let out a content sigh as he felt his Zone swell with increased power- growing far larger than either Zone would've been individually or added together normally. As he'd suspected, absorbing Zones was not additive, there was some hidden property that increased the result even farther. The water spell would take longer to learn properly- it sat deep within his mind like a small dark bead. He couldn't see into it and any attempts to reach for it slid aside without success. He'd simply have to wait. Or... his grown Zone brought something to his attention- another spell was nearby. Not active now no- but someone with a spell had stood close, watching them battle. The bald man's smile faded back into nonchalance as he set his Zone to follow the trail- and find the mage that had left it.

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Zone Magic Spells

Postby Friendlysociopath » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:59 am

Zone Attributes
Size is how large your Zone is- the definitive method for gauging Power.
Focus is how well you can move magic through your Zone- the definitive method for gauging Skill.
Complexity is how many spells you can have your Zone create at once- another method for gauging Skill.
Restoration is how quickly your Zone replenishes from using a spell- another method for gauging Power.
Perception is how well you can sense anything in your Zone.
And Learning is how quickly you can cast a new spell you've obtained.

Size, Restoration, and Learning are Power stats.
Focus, Complexity, and Perception are Skill stats.
You can increase Skill stats with practice. You can increase Power stats by killing other mages.

Spell qualities
Spells tend to fall into several types: touch, area, travel, self. There are, however, spells deemed too Unique to be brought into these types.
Of these types: area and travel-type spells are the most common, followed by touch-type spells; self-type spells are seemingly the most rare of the four.

Self spells tend to be specifically only for the user- typically augmenting the body in some way while the Zone maintains the spell. As they are applied differently to every body, they cannot be made into Enchantments and are the hardest spell to Learn when stolen from another mage.
Touch spells tend to require the mage to touch something to fully actualize the magic inside of their Zone- often but not always this effect can only function inside the Zone. While less difficult than Self spells, they are the next hardest type of spell to Learn.
Area spells tend to function only within the Zone but do not require a touch and can work on other things besides the mage's body- the effects can be localized to only one part of the Zone with enough Focus. While harder to learn than Travel spells, they are the next easiest type of spell to Learn.
Travel spells tend to be propelled in one direction or another- they can exist outside of the Zone but rapidly lose power. They are the easiest of spells to Learn when stolen from another mage and require the least Focus to be used effectively.


Spell Name - Type - Function
*Note- Many of these spells are named by the mage who uses them and as such the name may be misleading to the actual function of the spell.

View - Self spell - Allows the mage to see Zone boundaries as thin, faintly shimmering outlines.
De-Spark - Area spell - Prevents minor sparks of any kind from occurring in the mage's Zone when activated.
Spark - Area spell - Damages the power connections of all electronics in the mage's Zone when activated to the point where sparks will fly from the objects.
Pull - Touch spell - The mage can touch two or more objects and force one or more of them to move to the other. The objects do not need to be touched again to use the spell unless the object leaves his Zone.
Push - Touch spell - The counterpart to Pull, it functions almost identically except the force will propel the objects away from one another.
Fireball - Travel spell - Magic forms a ball of volatile energy that can be directed by the will of the mage while within the Zone. Once outside- it will rapidly lose travel speed and explosive power and it will explode upon sufficient applied force.
Bubble - Area spell - Magic draws together the water in the air and condenses it inside the Zone. The solidified water can be moved around with the mage's will so long as it remains in the Zone. Leaving the Zone causes the water to lose all cohesion.
Slow - Area spell - Magic affects time itself within the Zone. While the outside world will move at the same speed- everything within the Zone exempting the casting mage will be affected negatively by the decreased time.
Mirror - Area spell - Magic distorts the perceptions of all within it- what they think is flipped in such a way that when they believe they advance or strike in one way they instead do so in the opposite direction.
Midas' Touch - Touch spell - Transforms whatever solid object that is touched into the purest gold.

Possession - Unique spell - This spell is passed on through extended contact with another human while they're inside the mage's Zone- the closer and longer the contact- the faster the Possession takes effect. The affected human once fully Possessed then obeys the will of the mage- though the desire to comply lessens and eventually breaks once they're free of the Zone. Unusually, the Possession will be refreshed if they make physical contact with another Possessed human, even without a Zone being used.
Meteor - Unique spell - Unlike most spells, this one does not originate inside the Zone of the user. The meteor will come from outer space and strikes where the mage wills. While the spell is powered by the Zone no differently than any other- the Power of Meteor increases each subsequent time it is cast- regardless of how much Zone the mage uses beyond the minimum.
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