Points of Brilliance 3: Dawn of Power
Revised version posted Nov 13, 1995
Originally posted Nov 12, 1994
Stay tuned after the story for two brand new Magic cards!
It might have been the relived shock of finding my longago dream take on some reality, but whatever it was, I came awake sitting in my stuffed chair in the tower of Sablemorn. I blinked the remnants of the dream-within-a- dream out of my eyes, and realized that Ariel had gone. And so had the night. Looking out over the grounds of my house, I judged it to be midmorning of a bright, sunny day. I retrieved my pipe from its resting place and lit it with the tiniest touch of mana from a faraway mountain. Then I sat and contemplated upon what I had dreamed, puffing lightly on the pipe.
That fateful day, back when I was a new apprentice to the planewalker Ahrmin ip Wandrun, when I had dreamed of a futile war between gods fought by angels and demons in a faraway plane, I was still sitting cross-legged upon my bed when the sun peeked over the horizon, pondering the feather that sat there so innocently.
My master entered the room, bustling merrily as usual, and stopped short. "Ah, didn't you sleep? You have a busy day, and you needed the rest...."
I gave no sign of hearing him other than a slight change in the hunch of my shoulders.
"What is so interesting? Oh, this feather? There are lots around. Haven't you seen them before?"
"Not like this," I replied softly.
"Oh, trust me, there are many birds around here, and that feather could have come from any number of them. I could get one to give you another later. Now, get ready for breakfast." He walked out of the room.
"It's not from a bird," I whispered, then slowly, as if aching from every bone in my body, I stood and pocketed the feather. Food would certainly be appreciated.
Later, we stood under the drooping branches of a willow that almost straddled a small stream quite a distance from Ahrmin's cabin. "First, you need to find a stone to empower. This must come from the land that you wish to draw power from, because it has the needed connection to it, because it symbolizes it."
Dutifully, but not eagerly, I started searching for a stone similar in size to the stone Ahrmin had showed me the previous day, but he put a hand on my shoulder. "No, look for one." I turned back to look further, because that is exactly what I was doing. He stopped me again. "Not physically, feel the presence of the rocks, feel the one that is the focal point of the energy."
Suddenly, it became clear. I closed my eyes and looked outward with my magical sight, taking in all the energy that the land vibrated with. But it was unfocused. I drifted through the cloud of energy, testing to see where it was strongest. Finally, I found it, and opened my eyes to tell Ahrmin of my knowledge. And found I was standing in the middle of the stream, pointing down into it. Apparently, one has to be careful of moving around using only magical senses. I stepped out of the stream as a chuckling Ahrmin handed me a shovel with the direction to dig up the stone.
I did so, though it was wet work. The stone was not buried deep, but there were a lot of stones there. I soon had the hang of sensing the correct stone and pushing the others aside with the shovel at the same time. Soon, I pulled it out and presented it to Ahrmin. He shook his head. "I should not touch it. It will be hard enough for you to focus it and bind it to you without my aura confusing it. First, you have found a rune?"
Thinking of the feather I carried in my pocket, I nodded.
"Good, then I also hope you're good with a chisel." He handed me tools, and he began to show me the way to bind the land to myself. In the end, a couple hours later, I had a stone that physically looked much the same as it did before, except for the feather on one side and tree on the other, and it shone with a much different aura. And there was a thread there that buried its other end deep within my own aura. I let out a rush of air, and closed my eyes from fatigue.
"Good, good. You will now be able to pull mana from this land even when you're on another plane. You are on the way to becoming a true mage. But first, put the stela back into the ground. It does no good when it's removed from the land it focuses." I drew it back out of my pocket and sighed at the thought of digging around in the stream again. But soon it was back in the the stream, buried under some other rocks. "Ready to make some more, Thurm? You cannot do much with only the mana from a single land." I tiredly picked up the shovel and tools and started walking downstream. "Trust me, the second one is a lot easier."
By the end of the day, I had several greenish threads trailing me as I staggered back to the cabin. "Not a bad first day's work," said Ahrmin, accepting some berries from a sprite that flew up. "Get a good rest, and we'll head back out tomorrow."
"But I have-" I counted. "-four lands under my control now. Isn't that enough?"
"You can never have too much. Besides, you need some other types of land, too. Remember the colors of magic? You can only get green mana from those forests. Tomorrow, we'll climb higher into the mountains and get you some red mana. The other types are pretty rare around here."
I rolled my eyes and hunched over even further. "Can't we just fly there? Surely, you know a spell..."
"Ah, but it is you that is learning. We must always make the apprentice earn his keep, especially since he gets his meals without any work. Hard work makes a man, er elf, out of you."
I groaned louder.
The next day, after another night troubled with the dreams of the senseless war between uncaring gods, we indeed went higher in the mountains. I found that it was a different matter to focus the mana from the mountains than the forest. For instance, it seemed that the manastones, the stelae, had to be further apart, as the bare rock did not teem with as much energy as the forested regions. But at least I did not have to contend with a stream this time. Though the stelae were generally deeper, I did not have to dig around the roots of a tree to get to them. And the lines felt different. I had only pulled mana from forests before, as with the sprites a couple days earlier. The green mana was serene, soothing, yet vibrant with life. The red mana from mountains was vibrant too, but in a different sort of way. It was chaotic, destructive, and the lines twitched of their own accord every so often. This mana could be dangerous to use, I saw. Satisfied with my progress, Ahrmin led me back down to his cabin as the sun began to set.
The dreams continued, but none were quite as vivid as my first one. I continued to carry the feather with me at all times, trying to fathom where it had come from. Truly, Ahrmin was right in saying that it looked much like a bird feather, although it was slightly on the large side, and I never could quite match the coloring (white with some brown highlights) with any of the birds I saw. I examined it with my newly developing magical sight, but could see little that made me think that it was special. Finally, I quit doing anything special with it other than keeping it in my pocket. But then as I awoke one morning I saw that it had shriveled up during the night. I shoved the mystery aside in my mind and prepared for that day's lessons.
After the first couple days of backbreaking work in preparing land, lessons became much easier. Tedious, but physically bearable. First, Ahrmin tutored me in the art of aura reading, to pick out and identify spells that he carried. I got somewhat good at it, too, even though he was making his aura brighter to ease the reading. Then he started me with auras of living things. Every living thing, and some inanimate things, have an aura. Pretty much anything that has one can be called with a spell to serve the caster. One just needs to examine the aura, and spin the thread that allows the spell to work.
Spells that call creatures such as sprites or bears do not need to be very specific, and will call "a" group of sprites or "a" bear, because there are so many, and these do not need to really pledge service to the mage. Some creature of the right type will answer the call. However, spells for creatures such as dragons or wurms require that you find a specific one, and in some fashion, recognize you as their master, or at least swear some sort of future service to you. That's why I was able to summon Ahrmin's sprites the day that I arrived, they were not bound to a single thread, but could come based on any magical summons for sprites. I would not normally be able to call such with creatures like dragon whelps, because even though they are babies, they normally are in the service of a particular mage. Ahrmin told me that this is most often arranged by their parents in exchange for magical favors. I suppose an unattached whelp might come to the siren's call of a nearby summoning, but that is not something that mages could rely on. They either make sure they have a whelp in service, or don't bother with spinning that thread into their web of spells at all.
Soon, we started on casting actual spells. My first formal spell was the summoning of sprites, to which Wilda and her flock answered again. This time however, I did not need to focus the cloud of green mana around me, and then peer through the haze to try to find sprites to call. The two threads were there, clear in my mind's eye. I simply pulled energy from the forest, and sent it spiralling along the "Sprite summoning" thread that Ahrmin taught me to spin. And then Wilda appeared. It had taken no more than the space of a heartbeat.
"So, big mage, what do you want us to do? Get you some berries? Clean your boots? Comb your hair? It looks like it needs it," said Wilda in her high voice, looking at my short but unkempt black hair. Her companions laughed among themselves behind her. "We don't have all day. Some of the satyrs are taking a bath down at the waterfall right now..." She grinned.
"Well, I..." I began.
Ahrmin broke in. "Wilda, we're trying to teach young Thurmananthalas some magic here. You can have your fun later."
The sprites sniffed and pouted. But soon they got into helping me learn how to control summoned creatures, and see through their eyes. It was hard with the sprites, because there were so many conflicting images as each sprite looked in a different direction, but soon I was able to look through one's eyes at a time. As soon as they realized I could do this, they started playing with me. When I looked through one's eyes, she would close them and cause me to shift to another. Soon, they had me confused and somewhat dizzy. But shortly Ahrmin was satisfied with my progress, and he had me release the sprites. Wilda waved at me, and quickly followed her companions. She slammed headfirst into a tree, sheepishly rubbed her head, and hurried to catch up with the other sprites.
Ahrmin taught me the spinning of a lot of threads over the next few weeks. First there were bears, who ponderously followed my mental instructions without concern, then there were dryads, who silently drifted out of the trees that they protected, startling me the first time. Watching dryads walk through the forest through their eyes was a disorienting experience, since they phased through the trees as often as not. Then came an ape that Ahrmin said had come from the jungles of his home plane, that thrived in his new environment. And then there were some varieties of goblin, smelly little creatures that seemed to crave destruction, not seeming to care which end of the destruction they were on. I was glad to be rid of them. Finally, we were done with this phase of my instruction.
"My boy," Ahrmin said one day, "You have mastered the basics of the most elementary form of magic, that of bringing creatures to you to do your bidding. However, you have a long way to go."
I sighed, even though Ahrmin had assured me many times that I took to spellcasting with great ease, and managed to learn much faster than anyone else that he had taught.
"But it seems that we'll have to wait to go on. I have to go on a journey, which shouldn't take very long, but you'll have to take care of the mountain while I'm gone. Make sure that you fight off any invaders." He smiled impishly. Then he turned and walked away, and was gone. I walked after him, trying to sense where he had went, but he reappeared in front of me. "Now, don't you try to follow me across planes. You'll get lost, and then I'll never find you again. See you in a week." And then he was gone for good.
I was listless for a couple days, not knowing what to do in Ahrmin's absence as I felt I had mastered the spells of summoning, but then I hit upon the idea to explore and see what else I could find on this plane to summon. I called Wilda for advice on where.
"Well.... It's not a good idea to go too far, elf boy," she said, hovering in front of my face. "There's a lot of dangerous animals out there. And they're not all nice like me or Growly here." The wolf that I had met when I first arrived lay on the ground nearby, head resting on his front paws. He raised his head and emitted a low growl. "OK, nice like Fang here." His head dropped back on his paws.
"Yeah, nice. Gro- Fang didn't actually try to eat you, now did he? You gotta learn how to talk with wolves. They're pretty talkative once you know how to listen to them. And they play pretty good hide and seek!" She zoomed off and hid behind a tree. Fang stayed motionless, unimpressed with the sprite's antics. Wilda came pouting back. "Spoil sport!" she said to the wolf, yanking on his ear. Fang fixed her with a hard stare. "Well, I guess it's not a good time for hide and seek," she said nervously.
"Now, I'd like you to come along, so that I can find my way back. I don't know the area very well."
"That exploring thing is overrated. I know some nymphs that would like to get to know you better. They're pretty cute..."
"Oh, all right. I'll come with you. No need to pop a blood vessel. How does tomorrow morning sound?"
"You don't know what you're missing..."
I shook my head in exasperation.
To be continued....
And, as promised, here are your free cards...
When Satyr is declared as an attacker, his controller chooses a color.
Satyr gains protection from that color for the duration of the combat.
"You want to know how I lost this leg? Well, boy, never tease a satyr..."
|Copyright © 1997 Tim Bailey||1/1|
|Summon Water Spirit|
G,T: Add U to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
"The streams of the Stonecraft Mountains are home to the most beautiful beings you've ever seen. But look, don't touch."
|Copyright © 1997 Tim Bailey||0/1|
"Points of Brilliance Part 3: Dawn of Power" is Copyright 1995 by Timothy Bailey. All rights reserved. This story may not be distributed for profit, with the exception of the normal charges for online time.