Monday, 24 January 2011

Their Fated Travels...Chapter 22 - The Magister Path

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Their Fated Travels…

RPG Party events as told By Robert James Freemantle

Chapter 22

The Magister Path

The streets of Altdorf shined with a glaze from water on the ground. Showers had poured down earlier that morning.

The sun was now glowing with enthusiasm, thought Maestro, or mocking him at the very least as he and Tobias squinted their eyes – making their way towards the Celestial College once more.

Tordrad had been left at the front gate, but even though he was standing practically next to the College, its magical influences managed to make it hide away from the Kislevite’s mind once more. Tordrad could only guess where he had last seen the building and stared in that general direction waiting for Maestro to re-appear. He soon got bored with that and wandered off to find a tavern.

As the two robed fellows made their way around the garden paths, Tobias’s face was full of serious discipline guided by concern. “Maestro, this is your final test, a chance to prove yourself to the Sirs. I can only do so much for you. If you complete this you will be a magister at long last.”

Maestro sighed with the great weight on his shoulders as together they made their way through the servants’ entrance before doubling back and coming through the front door instead, giving each other a knowing look.

“Remember”, said Tobias, “You don’t have to win, just impress them.”

Maestro commented, “I’m sure nothing I do will impress them Master Wilwart.”

Tobias cocked his head and looked at the man, “Why not? You’ve impressed me.”

Maestro stopped in his tracks and began to get left behind, his face a mask of shock. Tobias had gotten quite a way ahead and looked around, seeing that this was getting them nowhere he quickly added, “Sometimes, only sometimes of course.”

Maestro began stepping forward a little as Tobias spurred him on, “Come on Maestro, we’re supposed to be there quicker than it would take if we came through the back door. Hurry up.”

Maestro snapped out of it and caught up as the haughty halfling hurried on without him, his quick little feet padding along the beautifully designed marble floor in this section.

Maestro didn’t have much to say. It all felt like a dream. He never thought he would actually be here, being tested to become a full magister - a master wizard of his order.

He had passed the other tests set out for him. He had proven his mastery and adaptation of the higher spells. He had proven his nerve for battle and his growing confidence in his own abilities. He had studied and passed the tests to prove his knowledge of the world. He could speak at least six languages and had some minor knowledge of others. He had even started a museum within the College, collecting some of the items he had acquired from adventures so far. Every single master, except Magnamus had betted against him yet here he was, about to face the final test. It was a dreadful shame that Magnamus himself couldn’t be present. His bright wizard leanings might have thrown off Maestro’s focus of the heavens lore energies – the winds of azyr which was a hazy mist like substance that floated about in the upper atmosphere, which he would view through his witchsight and telescope.

The shocking thought hit Maestro, that if he did become a master, he too could take on an apprentice. He still felt like an apprentice himself! Yet others were impressed with him now. Perhaps he had always been so disconnected with the idea of advancement that he had created an unbalanced overestimation of what even a journeyman’s power level should be, let alone a master. There was no time to debate these things with Tobias. The halfling would no doubt shout at him, telling him the same. He would tell him to concentrate on the task ahead, to make sure he doesn’t end up at Morr’s Gates by not focusing his protective wards correctly. He decided to save time and not say anything.

Soon they had arrived at the Magister’s Halls. Their contact, one Master Tharich waited for them, facing a hallway that he expected them to emerge from. Maestro and Tobias had emerged from a different side however and were now approaching the man from behind. Tharich had never liked Maestro. He disliked his lazy attitude and today was an uncomfortable circumstance for them to both find themselves in.

“Hello Sir” started Maestro from behind the other wizard.

Tharich looked around in surprise, horror on his face at being wrong. He questioned them, “But…but I divined your entry through the service quarters. You came that way to throw me off, like the old lessons. You could only have come from that passage over there.” He pointed with a slightly shaking finger at the corridor he had been facing.

Tobias grinned at last.

This was made worse by the fact that Master Tharich had been Maestro’s teacher in several subjects, including lessons of ‘cognitive future sight’ of which he was a specialist.

Maestro replied, “Ah yes, but I divined that you would divine this and hence I came through the front door instead.”

“You…divined…ME?…” spluttered Tharich. As the realisation washed over him like a cold torrent of water, he shivered before taking a deep breath of acceptance and continued as professionally as he could, “I am to escort you to the final assessment chamber and answer any questions you might have.” as he pointed at a wall a short way down the corridor. Maestro and Tobias could plainly see that it was only a normal wall.

Maestro looked questioningly at the master wizard but as soon as he had looked at the wall again, it had changed. Stairs now led down through a rounded opening. Maestro gasped and Tobias laughed heartily. This was truly the reason he remained in the job, for he got to see such wonders every day. He would sometimes explain that his title was ‘Magical Misconductor’ as opposed to Maestro’s ‘conductor’ of magical winds.

As they walked down the stairs that led to two large doors Maestro started, “There is not supposed to be doorway here, I’ve been past here lots of times and never have I seen one.”

Tharich smirked, “So much to still to learn, that is precisely why you never saw it, because it’s not supposed to be there.”

As Maestro pushed the double doors open Tharich stated, “Before you enter this room, be sure that you are ready. This will be the final test. You do not have to win. How could you possibly win anyway? Inside will be a wizard to duel you, to test you, but make no mistakes, he will be better than you are. You need only perform well to impress him, then you will pass.”

Maestro looked at Tobias who gave him a re-assuring nod. Tobias was putting it on to keep the wizard at ease. Maestro couldn’t tell. He was more concerned about which magister he would be fighting inside. At least it wasn’t Tharich, he thought. Tharich was a stern combatant. He had put several students in the infirmary. Although it was normal in magical ward practice lessons for students to be harmed, in this case they were sometimes blasted so hard for such a distance that they did end up literally in the infirmary, through the window that looked out on the training ground. At least they wouldn’t get shattered with glass, because the staff quickly caught on and kept the window open during training lessons…

Maestro pushed the great doors open quickly and stepped in as fast as he could, before his feet could find the time to argue against it.

He was standing inside a large room. Its exact size was indefinable because the edges disappeared off into shadows. What he could see though was a long way back indeed. He realised that the walls were in fact painted black, or at least those by the door had been but…where was the door? Maestro turned right around and couldn’t see the door anymore. He was standing in the middle of this vast room, surrounded by grey marble pillars that had electric blue veins running through them, spaced across the room at regular intervals as supports to the massive ceiling above. None of it made sense. This room couldn’t exist here, thought Maestro, it was too big. As the wizard stared up at the ceiling, he could see it had painted stars, planets and moons upon it. It was so lavishly created that it looked almost real. Maestro saw movement up there on the ceiling suddenly. A tiny shooting star moved down from the ceiling and into the room, descending just past his overly large nose. He went cross-eyed trying to follow it and then snapped out of it, realising the danger he was probably in. This feeling had been brought on by the sensation of something closing in on him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. He was scared. At last he would have to fight a magister and he would be on his own. No Tordrad to step in front and take the blows for him. No Rissandrea to use her warming influence and healing abilities to keep them on track. No Dieter to…to do whatever it was Dieter did. As he thought about it he realised that he couldn’t quite think of what role Dieter actually played in their party. The more he tried to think of what Dieter actually did, the more uncomfortable it was to concentrate on. Again, he realised that all of this had been another mental distraction as he felt the presence closing in once more, like a magical garrotte. This time he snapped out of his thought process just in the nick of time, realising that whatever it was, it had gotten too close this time.

Maestro quickly moved behind a pillar and hid. He reached out with his senses and felt nothing. His witchsight couldn’t make out any specific fluctuations within the room because the entire area was flooded was an overabundance of azyr, the blue winds of the Heavens. Trying to look at his surroundings with witchsight only made the room harder to concentrate on. There was too much visual stimulus all around him.

A voice behind him made him jump, “You can’t hide from fate Maestro.”

Maestro’s heart was beating fast, but before its second beat Maestro had already turned around to face the person who had crept up on him. He had perfectly masked his presence within the energy flows. Maestro didn’t doubt that the man could have walked right up to him and stood beside him at any time. Perhaps he had been already.

Within a fraction of a moment everything became apparent and Maestro was surprised again. Standing before him was someone he didn’t expect to see: Stern Glanzend - the Magister Patriarch. Standing there was no master wizard. It was a wizard lord. The most powerful chosen of all celestial wizard lords in the old world. Maestro couldn’t help but feel honoured, not realising the implications as he asked, “Gosh, it’s you Magister Patriarch. What an honour that you would come here to referee my bout against the master I am to fight today.”

The old man was of considerable age, yet the power level he exuded was on another level completely, more than Maestro had ever witnessed in any wizard, ever. He stood resplendent in the blue and grey robes of their order, holding a staff that was painted as black as the night sky upon the ceiling above them. Upon his head he wore a skullcap, adorned with magical gems that pulsed eerily. His fingers were decorated in rings of varying colours. Small lights of energy that ran surplus from his body danced off and into the air only to dissipate into nothingness – a continual aura of magical magnificence.

“Yes” started the old Patriarch, “I will be your judge. But there will be no magister here to face you, Maestro. I will be your opponent.”

Maestro laughed dismissingly and with a wave of his hand he replied, “Now that’s a good one! Hahha. Seriously, who am I fighting Sir?”

“Me” answered the Patriarch sternly, who for some reason wasn’t laughing along with Maestro’s joke. It was at about that time that Maestro realised that there was no joke.

The cowardly wizard jumped in fright, his entire body a picture of exclaim as he hurriedly enquired, “No no no there must be a magister to fight. It is unprecedented to have the Magister Lord Patriarch fight, especially against an unproven journeyman such as myself.”

The old grey haired man squinted one eye and leaned forward to emphasize his point, “Precisely. But you are an unprecedented student, Maestro Rophel Illefescion.”

“…In the flesh” added Maestro.

“Yes yes, in the flesh and all of the other titles you will be one day known by” came the Patriarch’s reply.

Maestro considered this and quickly retorted, “Why does everyone always have a problem with me anyway? They say I might be dangerous.”

“You might” came the old man’s reply.

Maestro continued, “They said it was safer that I remain out of the city.”

“It is” came the Patriarch’s reply.

Maestro was a picture of obvious questions, his face was easily read. The patriarch beat him to it, “You have always been considered different, an outsider. You were always feared. Even the Emperor feels unsafe around you, doesn’t he? You’ve asked around, lots of times. No one will ever tell you, will they?”

Maestro nodded solemnly.

The old man continued, “It was better for your development into a magister, to not know.”

Maestro almost exploded with nearly two decades of frustration, “Not know what?!”

The old man smiled with some satisfaction, “Perform well, impress me to become a magister – then I will tell you what you want to know.”

A look of new determination appeared on Maestro’s face. He then realised again the futility of such a feeling. Here he faced the strongest wizard lord of his order. Maestro’s voice shook nervously as he asked, “When does this fight begin?”

The Patriarch looked serious for a moment and then spoke with a voice like the cracking of lightning, “Now”.

At once the old man’s azyr control erupted around his body in a huge burst of energy. He appeared to channel and cast two spells, all at once, as his body sparkled momentarily with one hue then another.

Maestro began to fall back at once as heard a familiar incantation being recited. He knew he still had enough time to duck behind the pillar. However the weavings of the spell proved to be faster than he had ever thought possible. The Patriarch’s speed was awesome to behold, channelling with one hand and committing two handed magical weaves with just one hand to cast one spell while speaking aloud to incant the other.

The energies formed into a spell which fired out and struck Maestro, blowing his robes back with aethyric force just as he ducked behind the pillar.

He stood concealing himself behind the pillar knowing that he had been afflicted with a curse spell. He did not have the power to dispel it either. Already he would be at a disadvantage in his every action from here on.

He cast the second portent of amul on himself, so that he might foresee key events with extra clarity. A sort of de-ja-vu brought about on purpose. He did not doubt that the Patriarch had done the same already.

Maestro then shrouded his body in aethyric armour, as Master Tharich had taught him. It would absorb at least some degree of damage taken, for wizards would not wear actual armour. Every wizard knew - one of the first things they were taught - wearing any sort of armour would mean a drop in one’s control of the aethyric energies, as it would interfere with it flowing in and around one’s body.

Maestro prepared himself and gulped once to swallow what felt like his heart in his throat before coming out from behind the pillar speaking the words of a curse spell. The Patriarch was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly he could feel the ominous presence he had felt before looming in towards him again. His opponent was going to attack him and he didn’t know where it would come from. He was practically a sitting duck out there. He knew that no-matter what he chose to do, the Patriarch will have already foreseen moments before, so he could choose the correct moment to strike. It was also this thought that gave him his solution. Instead of using the second portent of amul to read his opponent’s next action, what if he were to read his own actions before he’d made them? Surely those same actions would be the same images seen by the Patriarch at the exact same moment!

Maestro gazed quickly into his mind’s eye and there saw himself walking to the right, looking for the patriarch who appeared suddenly from behind a pillar behind him.

After seeing this image Maestro began moving right, just as he had seen, but stopped one pillar short and faced the opposite way, to the direction the Patriarch appeared from in his vision. He decided on this new course of action and took a step forwards ready to look behind the pillar but changed his mind suddenly. Quickly he stepped left and away from it before turning around and walking towards a different pillar entirely.

Maestro gazed into his mind’s eye once more, this time seeing the Patriarch appear beside him on the left before blasting him with lightning. It looked painful, so he hoped that wouldn’t happen. He had to trust the idea.

Now away from the vision again, he began walking forwards and then stepped right a few times and started running forwards quickly only to randomly decide a direction of left to turn at the next pillar. He quickly saw a vision of the Patriarch appearing behind him soon when he doubles back on himself. Maestro knew that the Patriarch understood what he was doing, but that didn’t matter. He chose to ignore the future of doubling back on himself and kept going instead. No footsteps could be heard, other than his own.

Maestro was alive with concentration. Beads of sweat appeared across his face as he quickly then decided to double back on himself instead. He came up behind the Patriarch who was creeping up towards a different pillar. The old man snapped around and began channelling a spell but Maestro was prepared this time. He had maintained his channelling well all throughout this entire gruelling process and loosed off a curse spell to the Patriarch. It connected. Maestro quickly forward rolled behind another pillar and took cover against an attack that never came.

Maestro had concealed so many multiple bluffs within his bluffs by reading his own future movements that when he had changed his mind and those changes had been perceived, he then changed the changing of his mind and did the original thing again. All of these actions had stacked up enough to confuse his opponent.

Maestro refreshed the portent of amul spell on himself and stood out in the open, with eyes closed. He put one hand forward, facing palm outwards, his energies were channelled and ready. The azyr warned him of a vision, of his lying on the ground being choked by the most vicious silence spell he had ever seen. He began nervously laughing. The laughing grew louder as the Patriarch appeared and cast his silence spell. Tendrils of aethyric power clutched at Maestro’s mind telling him that a hand was choking him. His own laugh cut short and he gagged. At that moment he fought an internal war of willpower.

The laughing started up again, much to the horror of the Magister Patriarch, who was still reciting a spell. It was clear on his face as Maestro’s own eyes snapped open and he spoke aloud, “It isn’t as easy as that to shut me up, believe me, many have tried.”

From Maestro’s extended palm shot a silence spell of his own. It took the Magister Patriarch by surprise and he suddenly found that he could not speak. Whatever it was that he had cast though had already finished.

Suddenly a strong wind blew up around Maestro and knocked him to his knees. He supported himself with this staff, trying to not be blown over. The Patriarch stared grimly at Maestro, wincing now and then as he tried to remove the spell from himself internally.

Maestro unleashed an electric bolt of pure aethyr towards the Patriarch. It hit, most of it was absorbed by the magical wards he had cast upon himself, but some had gotten through. The old man looked impressed with Maestro and smirked. It had been a long time since any wizard had made him feel pain. His look of growing interest in the younger man turned into a look of fright suddenly when he saw Maestro was casting another lightning bolt. This time the old man whipped his robes up and around in a frontal circular arc which absorbed most of the attack. The rest arced away round either side of him harmlessly.

Maestro struggled to leave the vortex of wind he found himself in. He was standing once more but couldn’t move. He even had to incant the words to his lightning bolt spells with his head cocked to one side so that the torrents of aethyric wind didn’t take his breath away.

The Patriarch stepped backwards once and side stepped three times to the left where he vanished out of all existence. It was as if he had stepped behind a brick wall that had been painted the exact colour tones of the room behind it. Maestro wondered how this could be, considering that it might have been a spell he left in place from earlier, or perhaps it was one of the natural elements of this strange room itself. As he pondered these things and still failed to escape the raging winds about him, the Patriarch recovered from the silence spell that had afflicted him. His body had been scorched with the one shot that had gotten through and the old man didn’t want to risk another making full contact contact. Though his body was weaker than younger men, his strategies, his techniques, his defences, these were superior. He decided he would combine them altogether to finish the wizard as quickly as possible. He suddenly realised how impressive Maestro was in a fight, to force him to have such thoughts. Regardless of how talented he was though, the Magister Patriarch was regarded as the number one master combat strategist wizard in the Empire. His remote meditative guidance in the storm of chaos had proven the downfall of Archaon recently. One of the major reasons the Everchosen’s attack wasn’t as strongly supported at other walls as it should have been. More pressure on other walls would have diverted defenders to spread thinner.

The Patriarch had his plan now. It was just a matter of picking the right moment to execute it. Before he could though, his invisible wall shimmered and evaporated in front of him.

Maestro had no idea where the Patriarch was. His silence spell would have faded by now and he knew counter-attack was imminent.

The younger wizard came to a decision, casting a spell towards the ceiling. Something about it interacted with the stars that were part of the astrologically themed paintwork, making them shine brighter than they ever should until their glow emanated down into the room for quite a way around them in a large circle of effect. Suddenly a shimmering of “nothingness and somethingness tussling for existence over the same spot” drew Maestro’s eye as he spoke those words quietly to himself with intrigue.

The wind vortex stopped at last as Maestro thanked his lucky stars, then chortled at the joke he’d accidentally made. This momentary lapse in concentration was all it took for him to lose sight of the Patriarch once more.

Suddenly from behind a pillar to the side the older wizard stepped out swinging his staff skilfully.

Maestro only just raised his own wooden staff in time to block the attack that was aimed for his throat. The old man pressed the attack and Maestro was immediately on the defensive, parrying and blocking as best as he could. He brought his staff high at one end and low at the other, fending off every upper body attack from the old man.

The patriarch swept low suddenly and dragged his staff around in a low arc. Maestro had the sense to jump over it, but as he landed, the old man’s follow up leg sweep made contact, sending Maestro sprawling onto his back. As Maestro tried to get back up, the Patriarch pointed his finger towards Maestro’s staff and it flew out of his momentarily weakened grip across the room, clattering some distance away against a far off pillar.

The Patriarch quickly brought his staff down onto Maestro’s shoulder and he felt that arm go dead. Maestro took a step back, getting ready to grab the next lunge but the old man simply cast a lightning bolt! It was at an alarmingly close proximity. Maestro didn’t even have time to scream, as he was sent flying backwards across the room. As he hit the polished floor he kept sliding along on his back.

Maestro felt a familiar power source coming up on his left at any moment. He reached out and grabbed his staff back again as he kept on sliding.

The bolt of lightning had been massive. His hair was singed and more of it had turned grey in two places (although he didn’t know that yet).

His body ached with the burnt feeling. His senses had been fried and he had been subjected to such pain the like of which he had never felt before. His face was blackened, worse towards his lower jaw and chin. One piece of his long hair that ran down the side was actually on fire. He only realised that when he smelt the smoke and quickly waved and patted it to put the miniature blaze out before it could catch his head on fire, or so he thought.

Maestro commented aloud, “I can’t afford to be hit by one of those again or it will blast me to high heavens…oh, hah I made a joke there without realising.”

The Patriarch’s stern face came into view once more, through Maestro’s blurring eyes that were straining to correct themselves amidst the irritating smoke that poured up from his robes. Maestro fired a magical dart at the old man which he knocked aside with ease, with a swipe from the back of his hand.

Maestro desperately fired another bolt of electricity from his finger tips. The shocking blue aethyric bolts struck the ground where the old master had been standing but he was nowhere to be seen. Maestro considered the possibility that he had disintegrated from the attack but threw that idea aside as being silly.

As the younger man looked around trying to find the Patriarch’s location, a sudden cracking splitting sound above him made him look up. An aethyric thundercloud had gathered overhead, much larger than anything he had ever seen, let alone created. He started to run but the effects of the lightning storm were far and wide, as far as his eyes could see, about the room. The air around him was positively charged and within moments a bolt of lightning was bound to hit him!

He had to think fast. He supercharged the metal fastenings that were shaped like sharpened talons at the tip of his staff. Their purpose, to hold his cobalt coloured powerstone in place at the end. Once the metal had started to glow with a positive charge, he threw the staff up into the air. It penetrated the storm cloud and pushed back out of it, remaining levitated in the air. The positive charge in his staff was just enough to keep the positively charged lightning bolts from striking down on him, while he remained below the staff.

A single thunderclap of applause rang out through the great room of contests. The Patriarch’s voice was loud, coming from all directions at once, “Very impressive work Maestro. You are a genius. Just think, if we had never made you leave to find your life outside of this city you never would have discovered just how brilliant you were.”

Those words were of little comfort to Maestro right now, for he knew that the old man still meant to do him harm. Maestro had to rely on the electrostatic repulsion effect above and wait for the next move.

Suddenly his spectacles cracked on the left side. He took them off and threw them away, reaching into a sack inside his backpack where he pulled out another pair. After quickly examining them he put them on commenting, “Ah, my mountain climbing spectacles, well these will just have to do” to no one in particular. The different spectacles that Maestro wore for seemingly eccentric uses were a topic of some debate throughout even the wizard’s collegiate community. Maestro would procure or steal lenses from the Celestial College’s telescopes and use his own talents of engineering to create different spectacles. It was argued by some that perhaps Maestro’s belief that the spectacles were improving a particular area of his sight was enough for them to seemingly work, for him at least. Another argument held that due to the magical nature of the objects the glass was removed from, surely there was a chance that each was somehow imbued with some otherwordly property. Whatever the reason was, nobody ever seemed to conclude that he should be punished for theft and vandalism to the College telescopes.

Maestro could not see the Patriarch, but the great wizard lord recited a spell under his breath and quickly levitated off the ground. He continued to float up as high as he could.

The Patriarch’s disembodied voice rang out again, “You have given up your staff. Now how will you defend yourself, student?”

Maestro’s face became grim. He reached his hand behind his lower back, gripping the handle of his sword, keeping it firmly sheathed for the time being.

Maestro had stared at the Patriarch for long enough during the encounter to now recognize his unique effects on the aethyr around them. Before, it had been impossible to identify, for the azyr had all looked the same but he was now almost completely sure that the old man’s presence had a unique trail leading to it. He decided to trust his own guess and he quickly searched the room, looking not with his eyes but with his newly honed witchsight. Everywhere he scanned, the energy readings of azyr were erratic, but none matched the particular erratic pattern that belonged to the Patriarch. How was this possible? He had no idea. It could only mean that the old man had either left the room or he was no longer around him at all. It quickly dawned on Maestro that the old man couldn’t be on the floor and so had to be above him.

Maestro drew his sword, river’s edge. The handle was interlaced with bands of thick durable rubber that wrapped around a khaki coloured gripping cloth of fine material. The handle at first seemed like any other blade, but drips of water made the floor wet and within moments a torrent of water was running up and down the blade like the motion of a chainsaw. Maestro could hear the loud and purposeful recital of a silence spell again, as he concentrated his own willpower on the sword he held. The length of it started to adjust, with it growing in size due to the water itself stretching out further. The metal itself could not grow. Maestro knew that the Patriarch must have used a wings of heaven spell to levitate above the greyish black thundercloud and hide out of view so that he could snipe Maestro with a combination silence spell then blast him freely. It would all be over soon, he thought. He cast a lightning bolt spell just as the silencing effect hit him. This time the commanding presence inside his head was too strong. The will of the old man was absolute. He strained to fight it but his own tongue suddenly felt like a lead weight. He had finished the spell in time but did not manage to weave it into an outward attacking bolt. It remained trapped in his hands, where it re-absorbed elsewhere, as a spell like this always would if not unleashed quickly enough – as it was a natural element that of course could only behave as a natural element could.

Maestro fancied that his mountain climbing spectacles would give him the edge at perceiving movement from above him. The bi-focal element on the glass indeed was placed on the upper part of the lens for starters!

Maestro suddenly saw what he was waiting for: the Patriarch’s mighty lightning bolt that tore through the cloud from the other side and came rapidly towards him.

Maestro raised river’s edge so that its watery point connected with the lightning bolt first. The watery sword had been negatively charged by the failed lightning spell from Maestro before. The bolt that had made contact was positively charged!

The Patriarch stared in disbelief as the lightning erupted and burnt on the surface of the water and in an instant a counter charge from the water’s current jumped back through the lightning which led right back into the Patriarch’s fingers.

There was a massive electrical cracking sound followed immediately by an explosion.

The Patriarch fell from the sky, through the cloud and hit the floor. Maestro ran over to the supreme wizard lord and placed river’s edge to the man’s throat. The Patriarch’s fingers were black as soot and his hands were burned.

“I concede to you” he said. Maestro sheathed the sword once more. The droplets that had escaped onto the floor quickly made their way in reverse back into the sheath too, just before the sword’s hilt locked the opening off.

At once, several attendants appeared and pulled the Patriarch back onto his feet. He stared at Maestro in disbelief stating, “I would not have believed it lest I saw it with my own eyes. You are now a magister, you shall now be known as a Sir or our order.”

Maestro smiled and said, “Oh good, that means I can concentrate on some other pursuits next, like getting back to my engineering studies.”

“Well, ahh yes” said the Patriarch, a little shakily in his voice, “There is that. Now that you are a magister, you may define what sort of further title you have. There have been magister engineers before, indeed. The final rank for you attain, lord will still be some way off. Your depth of comprehension will still need to grow, so I give you permission for now to study whatever you see fit.”

Maestro punched the air in triumph. At last, he thought, at least he had conquered fate’s plan. He realised he’d said that last part out loud when the Supreme Lord Patriarch answered, “How do you know that this wasn’t the plan all along?”

Maestro gulped at the enormity of such a suggestion. He quickly pushed that down though and asked, “You said you would tell me why I have been treated differently all these years.”

The Patriarch sighed, “Indeed, yes I suppose I did. Ah well Maestro. Have you ever heard the stories of supreme wizard lord Wilheim?”

Maestro thought for a moment and then replied, “Ah yes, one of the only humans to actually master high magic.”

Magic in its purest form was normally only controllable by the elves. It was called: High magic. Evil wizards and mages would often channel a near variant of high magic called “dhar”. This negative form of high magic was the pure stuff of chaos, unrefined, undisciplined and un-metered. All magic in itself originated from the chaos dimensions. Users of dhar were those who wanted the fast track to power. Such magic was near the level of the elves for little effort at all, but it carried a whole host of new dangers as a result as well. Practitioners of these dark arts would often go insane or be subject to a fate far far worse than that!

Humans were not anywhere near gifted enough to use high magic. Their only path to access was dhar, which explained why necromancy and chaos magic was rife amongst mortals who had turned their backs on the Empire and its lawful minded neighbouring countries.

Magic in its purest form was the mass collection of eight different channelled energies that the elves called “qhaysh”. Humans would spend their entire short lifetimes just mastering a single element, a single wind of the eight lores. Furthermore, because of the natural restrictions of a human body, the further a wizard studied down the path of a particular school of magic, the less attuned he became to reading the others.

Wilheim, for some reason was the exception to this rule.

Maestro looked a little confused, “Why do I want to know about some old story that was probably made up like most of the others then?”

The Patriarch gasped, “Because Maestro, it was only too true. Not a fable to impress the younger students into joining our order. Not a story to tempt would be students away from the path of hedge wizardry. He was real.”

Maestro considered the words, “and how do you know that, Sir?”

“Because Maestro” answered the Patriarch, “Because you are his descendent. You are his blood - albeit thinned down now, of course.”

Maestro’s jaw fell open.

The master lord continued, “On your mother’s side, because of course your father’s father hailed from Bretonnia, hence your name.”

“My mother…” started Maestro, “she…”

The Patriarch looked grimly at him and clarified, “Your mother did indeed end up in the infirmary, that was no lie. But you were never told the reason why I’m afraid.”

Maestro quickly stated, “It was the pressure and disgrace of that that made father stand down from his role as financial advisor to the Emperor…”

“Yes” said the Patriarch, “but her ‘insanity’ was a result of her bloodline’s natural element, gifted affinity with magic.”

Maestro looked shocked on a new level with each word the old man spoke as he continued to explain, “Yes, your Mother became gifted with magic. It came on suddenly though and in her older years where her developed adult psyche could not handle the strain. Most are lucky enough to receive the blessing…”

“Or curse” added Maestro grimly.

“Or however you look at it” answered the Patriarch, “at a younger age when their minds are more adaptive to change. Because of course, their entire bodies are constantly changing anyway. Your mother developed a sudden outburst of dhar and that was that. All who went near her were in danger. She was wholly destructive but couldn’t help it…”

“And there she died…” added Maestro, his voice full of melancholy.

The Patriarch looked embarrassed at this and looked down and away choosing not to even reply to that remark before continuing, “So you can imagine how the higher powers felt when you developed your magical attunement. Your initial discovery of the power combined with your case file was even enough to spook the Emperor. It is because you are a descendent of Wilheim that you almost have the attunement of high magic about you. It is why you pick up on other wizards’ attunements when they are in your vicinity. Your natural blood gives you that much, but because you are a late descendent, the blood is now watered down so much that you will probably never attain high magic like he did. So if you have the capacity for high magic without the gift to actually wield it, what do you think your masters, your teachers feared would happen to you Maestro?”

Maestro replied with a sense of awe and realisation in his voice, “Dhar. I might have succumbed to Tzeentch’s will. I…I actually understand now.”

“Yes” said the Patriarch, “the less you knew the better, but remaining in the city as you were, was a dangerous course as well, for you at least. It wasn’t that we were picking on you, even though you were a lazy little blighter if I do say so myself”, the Patriarch coughed and set himself back on the track of his point, “but that remaining uncultured in how to harness, how to control the stronger winds of magic would leave you susceptible to it if it flared up naturally on its own, into the next level, as it did with your mother.”

Maestro shook his head from the enormity of everything he was now trying to take in. This was truly life changing for him. Part of him wished he hadn’t asked, yet another part was glad he had. A tear formed in his eye, made all the more ridiculous as he still wore his seemingly upside down spectacles. The single tear parted a way through the black soot on his cheek.

“You are naturally talented, Maestro” added the Patriarch, “But unmotivated as well. You have grown under our advisement and are all the better for it. You are a master tactician if ever I did see one. Do you have any more questions?”

Maestro was silent for a moment then replied, “None Sir…”

“Then let’s be off with you eh? You are now a master and are deserved of a servant to run you a bath at the very least.”

Maestro quietly nodded and left through the now opened door before him. So much had changed this day. He had at last learned who he truly was. It scared him. Who was he again?

Once Maestro was gone and the door had shut again a strange second old man stepped out from behind a pillar. He looked very old indeed but somehow there was a striking likeness between he and the younger wizard who had just departed from the room.

The newcomer said, “Hmmph, I used to look like that did I?”

“Yes, it seems so old friend.” answered the Patriarch.

The newcomer added, “No wonder no women liked me.”

The Patriarch stated, “Do you forget? You were the one who had a problem with women, not the other way around?”

The Patriarch considered something for a moment and asked, “Why did you come here though? Why did you feel the need to see this one more time?”

The newcomer, resplendent in the robes of the Celestial Order smiled gravely, “I am soon to depart this mortal coil. I have foreseen it. I wanted to relive the one moment that meant most to me.”

The Patriarch commented a little more sympathetically than before, “I too am not long for this world. I have less than a year here. It was dangerous though, I don’t have to tell you that. If he had seen you, everything, all you were, all you have become would have been put into jeopardy. All certainty would once more have become uncertainty within the time stream.”

“Well it worked out all right didn’t it” said the robed newcomer as he bit down on an apple before adding, “I’ll see you around. Make sure you watch over me.”

“So that you won’t have to, of course I will” answered the Patriarch.

“Thank you” said the elderly newcomer, “I can go in peace at least.”

Meanwhile as Maestro padded down the hallway he muttered quietly to himself, “I wonder who that old bloke was hiding behind that illusion wall spell. Oh well, it’s of no consequence to me, not today, nothing is!”

…Not today. Nothing is.