The first chapter of a new book full of magic! Arie is tested to see if he is a Magician.
“Once, the world was full of magic. People across the continent prospered, enjoying luxuries that today only the richest of the rich have available. Magic, by definition, made everything better. Those who wielded its awesome power came to be known through the ages as Wizards. These people, bestowed with supernatural power, rose above the ordinary classes, and ruled Talia benevolently for centuries. No one knew anything other than peace. Scholars of great learning and renown discovered new things almost every day, and explorers, fearing no enemy nation, boldly went to the four corners of the land, bringing home with them tales of more wondrous creatures and spectacular magic. Wizards, who could slow their aging through the use of their magic, lived long enough to unlock many elusive secrets about the nature of their power and reality itself. There were many great magic users over the centuries, but none were greater than Ashkema, the most powerful Wizard to walk the earth.
Ashkema lived long and had seen many things, and was wise beyond any ordinary mortal. Being the most powerful being on the planet, he could have endeavored to set himself up as a god, and many people would have gone along willingly, but instead he shared his magic with everyone he encountered, never hesitating to help a farmer out or put a smile on children’s faces. And though a strange and Dark threat, in the form of rogue Wizards, rose up to counter Ashkema’s light, all sources report that this unknown enemy was no match for Ashkema’s magic. Talia was enjoying paradise under Ashkema’s tutelage and protection, and everyone knew that magic, in the hands of good people, who always make the world a better place.
Until there was no more magic.
Until, suddenly, in an absence of good people, the continent entered a long, downward spiral into evil’s clutches.
On that fateful day, the first of what became known as the New Age, Wizards ceased to exist. Magic was cut off from the realm, and with it, all the prosperity and peace people had known for so long. Many strongholds of magic have fallen into disarray or been corrupted by the resurgence of Dark energy into the realm. Terrible beasts stalk the forests and night became something to be afraid of again. The only magic left is in the forms of Talismans or Relics, artifacts from a better, safer age. Ashkema and the rest of the prominent Wizards slowly faded into obscurity, vanishing from the history books.
But time slows for nothing, not even the end of the greatest civilization the world has, or will, ever know. New power hungry individuals began vying for the throne, and the massive kingdom the Wizards created that stretched from coast to coast quickly split into warring factions. With one exception, the continent has not been unified under a single ruler since the Age of Magic, and many hope it never will be again.
Magic, although certainty more rarer now, has not disappeared for good. Humanity may have lost the ability to harness its raw power, but magic will, in all likelihood, never fully vanish.
Dark magic lurks on the outskirts of civilization, waiting for the opportune time, while other forms of magic can be found closer to home. Wizards may never walk the earth again, but Magicians quickly filled the gap left by them, however imperfectly. And here arises the key different between the two: Wizards were able to reach into the Ether, the mysterious source of power that binds everything together, and use it to make what everyone calls magic, whereas Magicians, shut off from the source, must use objects that act as a conduit, channeling the source through them. These objects are referred to as Talismans.
Most, if not all Wizards created at least one Talisman over their lifetime. Objects that took the most of the strain of using magic off the Wizard had their uses, although many disliked the concept, as any Wizard could come along and use their Talismans, unless the Wizard implemented a very complex and dangerous safety feature known as ‘soul imprinting.’ However, the standard Talismans used by many Magicians across the continent fall into four basic categories: Nature, Water, Electric, and Fire, in ascending order of power. Most Magicians, with the exception of Elementals, can only use the Talismans that corresponds to their specific category. There are others, Talismans recovered by Questing Parties sent out to find remnants of ages gone by, that do not fit into these conventional categories or exceed the power of many that do. The magic that Talismans wield does not come from within the object, but somehow from the Magician himself, so common folk cannot use them. It has been theorized that, should present day Magicians have been born back in the Age of Magic, they would have been Wizards…
Talismans are not the only source of magic in this new world. There are other objects, objects that can be used by anyone to make magic, that once were common when Wizards existed. Relics, as they are called now, differ from Talismans in that one does not have to be a Magician to use them. Archivists, scholars, ad Lorians disagree on precisely how they work, but they generally accept that the magic Relics create somehow comes from inside the device itself. Because of this, most Relics were destroyed by Jervik the Tyrant, fearing a magical uprising from the population, but the surviving Relics are carefully maintained by the Warriors according to the Paladin Accords.
Although, to the commoner, magic may appear dead and gone, the Magician must always be on alert. There are things lurking beyond city walls, things farmers and traveling merchants talk about in hushed whispers after children have gone to bed, things that even the bravest Warrior would run from…”
Russ snapped the book shut loudly, startling Arie out of his reverie.
“Why’d you do that?” Arie protested. “That’s one of the best parts!”
“Oh, come on, Arie, you practically have this book memorized,” Russ laughed. “Any it’s my book!”
“But the monsters are so cool!” Arie got up as Russ put the book, one of his grandfather’s old Repository textbooks, back on the shelf.
“I’m sure that’s what you’ll be thinking when you’re facing down a pack of Direwolves,” Russ grinned.
Arie scoffed. “Oh, please. When I’m a Magician, Direwolves will be no problem. Me and my Shock Rings will make quick work of them.”
Russ arched his eyebrow. “Electric Magician? Aiming high, are you?”
“Says the person who literally said, and I quote, ‘It’s practically guaranteed that I’m a Water Magician,’” Arie laughed.
“It’s true!” Russ protested. “My grandfather was a Water Magician! It’s in my blood! It’s my—”
“If you say becoming a Water Magician is your destiny one more time, I will punch you,” Arie said, dead serious, staring at his friend.
“But it is!” Russ said weakly.
“Really? If being a Water Magician is ‘in your blood,’ as you so eloquently put it, then why isn’t your father a Water Magician, living in it up in the main city, instead out here in pheasantsville?” Arie shot back.
“It skips a generation sometimes!” Russ replied defensively, crossing his arms in defiance. “You’d better be nice to me, ‘cause when I graduate from the Repository top of my class, and you need a Magician’s help one day, I might just refuse!”
“Why, you—!” Arie leapt at Russ, bowling him over and knocking a nightstand to the side, papers and a cloud of dust rising in the air. Russ and Arie rolled around in the floor, trying to pin one another down, until Russ’ father hollered up that them, “Hey!”
Both boys immediately ceased fighting, Arie’s fist still raised, Russ’ hand smashed into his face, their legs twisted at awkward angles.
“You boys aren’t going to beat each black and blue and ruin your best clothes on my watch!” Russ’ father bellowed up. “I want my son looking sharp for the Screening! This could be your big day, Russ! And you too, Arie! Just cause your parents stepped outside for a minute doesn’t mean you can go feral! Do I make myself clear?”
The two untangled themselves, brushing off the cloud of dust that was beginning to settle on their clothes. “Yes, father,” Russ called down.
“Good! I want both of you downstairs immediately! You should be down here getting ready for that ceremony, not up in some dusty attic soiling your clothes!” Footsteps stomped away from the open stairwell down to the main floor.
“Well, so much for our fun,” Arie muttered. “They put all this pressure on us to look our best, and try our hardest, as if that’s what the Screening is all about.”
Russ shrugged. “It’s mainly because they want us to be Magicians. If we’re Magicians, then the government pays them for us to enroll in the Repository, and their status goes up. It’s a win-win situation for parents. The kid’s dreams come true, and the parents get money and respect. Given how few kids actually are accepted into the Repository each year, and that this is a once in a lifetime chance… I can see where they’re coming from.” He picked up the nightstand they had knocked over.
“Yeah…” Arie sighed, collecting papers. He had been feeling confident about the whole thing a couple minutes ago. He knew that his chances of actually being a Magician were next to none, but every kid had it set in their heart that they knew they were a Magician. Knowing something and knowing something, Arie thought, are very different things…
He picked up a few stray papers by the bookcase, bending down to reach one that had slipped partially under. His probing fingers grasped the paper, but also… a piece of fabric?
Arie frowned. “What’s this?” He grabbed the fabric and pulled it out from under the bookcase. Russ gasped behind him. The fabric was wrapped around a long stick like thing, tied shut in the middle with a piece of leather string. Arie picked at the knot, trying to untie it,
“Don’t—!” Russ rushes to grab it from Arie.
“Hey!” Arie protested when he snatched it from his grasp. “What’s the big deal?”
“I— I think I know what this is…” Russ whispered reverently. “When my grandpa was a Magician… it was said that… his favorite Talismans…” He trailed off, staring at the package.
“No…” Arie caught on to what Russ was trying to say. “It can’t be…” Russ unraveled the knot, carefully laying aside one flap of binding, then the other. The boys gazed down at a gnarled wooden staff, the wood thickening around one end to a club like ending, a dull blue crystal embedded in the club.
“It’s his Wave Staff…” Russ said in awe.
“A real Talisman…” Arie echoed. “Here in your house, all these years…” He reached out to run his hand over the wood.
“No!” Russ jerked the Staff backwards. “It’s very fragile!”
Arie narrowed his eyes at Russ. “Hey, just because it belonged to your grandfather doesn’t mean you can hoard it all to yourself!”
“Fine,” Russ replied reluctantly. “Don’t break it.” He glared at Arie.
“You know full well that it takes more that we have to break a Talisman,” Arie gingerly took the Staff out of the cloth, waving it around slowly in the attic, stirring dust in the air. “The book says the crystal is supposed to light up if you’re a Water Magician. There goes one of my options…” Arie sighed and placed the Staff back in the cloth.
“Don’t worry,” Russ offered him a small smile, wrapping it up and retrying the leather cord around it. “I’m sure your going to be fine.”
“BOYS!” Russ’ father yelled again.
“Sorry, sorry!” Russ called. “We’re coming!” He shoved the Staff under the bookcase and whirled to face Arie. “We can’t tell our parents about it, understand? They can’t find out about it!”
“Okay…” Arie shrugged. “Why?”
“Because if they knew, they’d turn it in to the Elementals! Then it would be lost forever!” Russ explained.
“Like you’re supposed to do when a Magician in the family dies,” Arie said. “But since it’s been several years after his death, and shoved behind the bookcase in the attic, they could make the case that this is a lost Talisman. The Repository pays people for bringing in lost Talismans.”
“Exactly!” Russ said. “That’s why we have to keep it a secret! At least, until after the Screening.”
“So if you become a Water Magician, you’ll use the Staff,” Arie finished.
Russ nodded. “It’d be nice to know that the Talismans I’m using was used by my grandfather. Dad says he did great things with it… I he’s rather have it passed down to his grandchild than some random Water Trainee.”
“Alright, then,” Arie agreed. “Only til after the Screening. Then you’ve got to tell them about it, and I’m not going to defend your right to keep it.”
“Deal,” Russ nodded firmly. The two descended the attic steps to the main floor below.
“Finally,” Russ’ father grumbled. “I thought you two had died up there, you took so long.”
“Sorry, father,” Russ mumbled.
“Straighten your collar,” He gave Arie and Russ a hard look, appraising them both. “Fine young men,” He said approvingly. He clapped them on the shoulders and steered them out of the house. “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”
Outside the house, Arie’s parents waited.
“Come on, son,” Arie’s father nodded to him, and he took his place at the head of the wagon. “Everybody in, now. We’ve got to make it to the Repository before the Screening starts.”
Arie and Russ took their place in the line that snaked around the Repository. “This is going to take forever,” Arie complained, arching his neck to see through the long line of waiting thirteen year olds.
“They give you that long to contemplate your future,” a girl in front of them said. “No one is going to be a Magician. No one has a chance.” She turned away from them sadly.
Arie and Russ looked at each other, eyes wide. “Well, that’s pessimistic…” Arie trailed off. “Nice girl.”
“Don’t let her bother you,” Russ waved the girl’s comment off. “Don’t worry about a thing. I know we’ll be Magicians. I can feel it.”
“That must be nice,” Arie muttered as they shuffled forward, making painfully slow progress. “I wish I had that feeling… the closer we get to the Repository, the more nervous I get…”
“We’ll be fine,” Russ told him. “Don’t worry.” The two inched forward a bit more.
I don’t like this, Arie thought, wondering how Russ could be so nonchalant about the whole thing. The Screening is the most important event of your entire life. If the Screener tested you and found the ability to access magic inside you, then you became a Magician. If not, you were ordinary. Another nobody farmer or blacksmith or merchant… I don’t think I could live with that.
Soon Arie was right outside the Repository doors, watching Russ being escorted inside. The doors sealed shut behind him, and to Arie it seemed like their resounding crash symbolized his childhood hopes and dreams falling down around him…
“Hey, kid,” The Warrior on the left side of the doors spoke to him. “Step back. It isn’t your turn yet.”
Arie shook himself out of his self pity. “Sorry,” he mumbled, taking a slow step back.
The Warrior on the other side of the door tilted his head and peered at Arie. “Uh oh. We’ve seen that look before. Haven’t we, Hilo?” He turned to his companion, who nodded in agreement. “Every year, it’s the same.” He leaned down to Arie’s level. “News flash, kid. Magicians aren’t all that. Sure, you’ve got some flashy lights and noisemakers, a couple of cool gadgets, and a load of swagger, but there are better options.”
Arie snorted. “Yeah right. Like what?”
“Hey!” The Warrior on the left, Hilo, exclaimed. “Warriors are cool, too. We’ve the weapons, we’ve got a cooler fortress, we’ve got this shiny armor,” he motioned to the body armor he and his partner were wearing, “and we’ve even got Relics! I mean, that’s magic, too, and, the best part is, you don’t even have to be a Magician to use them.” He chuckled. “I mean, have you seen the Warrior’s Stronghold? Anything bad happens, that’s where I’d want to be. Nothing could get in to that, magical or otherwise. Fifty foot walls, made of stones five feet thick, it was the defining factor in the Siege of Keme, back when the Tyrant ruled… sure, not it’s finest hour, but still a testament to its strength.”
“If you say so,” Arie sighed. “My friend seemed so confident when he walked in… how do you think he’s doing? His grandfather was a Water Magician, so at least he has a chance…”
“Yeah, kid, that’s how things work. Magic is hereditary, so if you’ve got a Magician in your immediate family you are more likely to be a Magician yourself,” The Warrior on the right spoke. “As for his confidence… listen, kid. Half the guys who pass through these doors are cocky idiots who think they’re about to have the world handed to them on a silver platter, and the other half have already resigned themselves to a life on the farming.” He sized Arie up. “You… you don’t think you have a chance, but hey, hardly anyone does. But at least you have spirit. That’s gotta count for something.”
Arie smiled wryly at the two Warriors. “Thanks, guys. I always thought Warriors were these tough, imposing dudes who never laughed and trained 18 hours a day.”
Hilo laughed. “No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. We only train 17 hours a day.” They all laughed at that, and Hilo continued, “the truth is, some Warriors do. They’ve been hurt by life, and they think that discipline is the only way out.”
The Repository doors swung open, revealing the shadowy interior. “Next!”
“Good luck, kid,” The Warrior said, waving him through. “If this doesn’t work out for you, I’m sure you’d make a fine Warrior!”
The doors swung shut behind him, and Arie got his first good look at the inside of the Repository. He’d stared at the large, multi-leveled red and gold building for years, waiting for this day, but now that he was inside, he felt like all his expectations had created a false hope. The Repository looked surprisingly… plain. The rug on the floor was a faded red, the torches left permanently stained blackened marks on the stone walls, and the halls had a slightly cramped feel to them. Arie looked up at the man who had waved him in. He was tall, dressed in a red robe hemmed with gold and sky blue patterns typical of an Elemental, a Magician who could wield Talismans from all disciplines.
He sniffed disdainfully. “Warriors. Why do we even need that run down police force? Magicians are capable enough to take care of any threats Keme could face.” The Elemental glances down at Arie. “Follow me.”
He led Arie down the widest hall, one that led straight into the heart of the building, all the while muttering about the injustice of the Paladins Accord, and how the Relics “should belong in Magician hands.” The two arrived at a room with a black door, emblazoned with a golden eye. “Step inside.”
Arie opened the door and stepped into a dark room, lit by only a single candle in the center of a wooden table.
“Welcome,” a silky voice called. A woman emerged from the shadows of the room, dressed in black, a veil obscuring her face. “This is where your life begins. Sit, please.”
Arie pulled out a chair and sat at the table. The woman did the same.
“I am Naeve,” she introduced herself. “And you are…?”
“Arie,” Arie said, his mouth dry.
“Welcome,” Naeve repeated. “Screening is a sacred process. One in which a girl becomes a woman, and a boy, a man.” She slipped on a glove from under the table, and curled her hand into a ball.. “Magic flows from the glove into your body. I must direct it, or the magic will overwhelm you and disintegrate you from the inside out.” She opened her hand, the glove, humming softly, emitting a soft yellow-white glow. “Let us see if you have what it takes to be a Magician…” she pressed the glove against Arie’s chest, and Arie felt an almost overwhelming flood of power surge into his body. He gasped, grabbing the table’s edge, his knuckles turning white from exertion.
“Interesting…” Naeve muttered. She pressed the glove harder against him.
Arie felt the Ether inside him, desperately hungry to get out, but it couldn’t. It was trapped, and if it wasn’t released it would burn him up from the inside.
“Stop…” Arie groaned.
“You can’t stop, now that it’s begun,” Naeve growled, her hand glowing brighter.
“No,” Arie spoke with clenched teeth. “You don’t understand…” The glow from the glove was spreading, enveloping his whole body, until he was shining from head to toe with the same yellow-white light that the glove emitted. The room was bathed in Arie’s light, illuminating every detail of the small, stone room.
“What… what are you?” Naeve retracted her hand, and the glow abruptly cut out. Arie sighed in relief, the chaos inside him fading away.
“That was awful,” Arie groaned. “It that supposed to happen?”
Naeve ignored him, inspecting the glove. She turned to the door and yanked it open, allowing torchlight from the halls to spill in.
The Elemental that had brought Arie was waiting outside. “Well?” He asked Naeve.
“This… boy has power like I’ve never seen,” Naeve spoke in hushed tones to him, glancing back to see Arie loitering at the door. She took him by the arm and pulled him aside. “His power doesn’t seem to fit in any of our categories!”
“So he’s an Elemental, then?” The Magician didn’t look particularly pleased, and craned his neck to get a good look at Arie. “Hmmm… doesn’t look like one…”
“No, he’s not an Elemental,” Naeve said sharply. “If I had to draw a definitive conclusion, the only thing I’m confident enough to say for certain is that we have never seen anyone with magic like this before.”