I, Magus: Memoirs of a Prophet Chapter 1
Barrier of Blood
By Dawn Wilkins
...One cannot truly perceive the experience of returning home unless s/he did so. The whole atmosphere was enough to convulse me to my heart, reliving the sights and smells and sounds of years old. And, though, one might be inclined to imagine that the situation is only moderately altered, surprised would be the individual who strode in my cloak. Shadows fell in distinct angles, contorted to the point that my initial reckoning was meaningless. Nothing was the same...Except Schala.
Sheets of azure liquid slammed into the ocean below, rippled by slashes of ivory. It crashed against a barren shoreline. Snow trickled, struggling to resist the onslaught of water but failing each time. It dissolved never to be seen again. Those massive waves could be a testament to the kingdom that subsisted above its passionate reign. Why? Because, nestled in the clouds, floated the Magical Kingdom of Zeal.
Oh, it was beyond magnificent--it was staggering. A quadrant of islands drifted in midair, a single enormous piece flanked by three sky islands. To the right (judged by the direction facing out from the center), was a sizable chunk with the city of Valor. Top most left of the main body floated a mysterious land with a magical power. Lower, but still to the left, was another portion of grassy granite with the amazing Enhasa. The center mass contained the prestigious Kajar, the sky harbor, and a number of mountains and an astonishing waterfall from which cascaded immaculate water. But most significantly of all, the breathtaking Palace of Zeal.
Ocean and kingdom...both powerful, undeniable, passionate, and brutally merciless.
Home, Magus sighed. No, not home. I never had a home. Never really needed a home. It was a place I merely existed in.
The wizard lowered his head, lest the emotions overwhelm him. Ever since his arrival in 12 000 B.C. maintaining, his cool demeanor had become increasingly difficult. And why wouldn't it be? Here was his world for nearly a decade of his life, ripped from him at an impressible age. But his mother had been the one responsible for delivering him into the arms of Ozzie (well, not literally) and his sole love had been of his cat, Alfador, and his sister, Schala. Oh, his dear sweet sister. Only she was the one who understood him. What would she think of him now, a Prince of Darkness?
Spinning with his characteristic fluid grace, Magus paced from the balcony and shoved aside the violet curtain. Nothing. Just his wild imagination getting the better of him, which it often did. As he turned on his heel his sight fragmented and an image materialized before his fire-and-lilac eyes.
There was his beloved Schala, indigo robe hiked up to avoid tripping, chasing after...him! It was he as Janus, the spoiled brat. Darting this way and that the cagey prince dodged his sibling's arm and leapt onto a golden chair. Alfador hid in the boy's robe, violet fur scattered the length of the chamber. Schala's hands were on her hips. Though she tried to look stern, she never could. Such was Schala. Janus made faces at her (quite innovative ones, too) and she dissolved into laughter.
"Janus, that was not nice! Ha! ...Ah, (giggle) ...Dalton may be rude but you shouldn't have . . . Ha! ...burned his hair! Ha! Ha!"
Then the two made up, embracing.
With a jolt Magus emerged from the reliving of that moment. He loved her more than anything. Oh, if only things had been different! But they would never be. He had to sacrifice that golden opportunity to salvage this corrupted kingdom. The destruction of Lavos was paramount. He was the key to all the suffering, the years of torture and rejection. Destroy Lavos and all would be good again.
But first he had to convince his blasted mother, and monarch of Zeal, to accept him as an oracle. He'd received the inspiration while observing an ebony-robed individual boasting to someone that he had prophetic powers. Prophecy was an aspect of magic Magus had become interested in (because of the black wind's omens) and he decided he would emulate a foreseer. Now he awaited an audience with the queen.
Again, the former prince turned as his keen ears heard the chamber door open. Pompous and overdressed entered the queen's advisor, Dalton. His outfit screamed of his arrogance, pride that nearly matched Magus' own with less cause. An expansive orange and purple cape flowed down his back connecting to his gold tunic. However, what was most unusual was his brown eye patch. And, of course, that silly hair.
The advisor's eyebrows rose suspiciously. "Hey, how did you know my name?"
A smile came to Magus's lips. "I'm a prophet. And you're here to announce me to the queen." Actually, the dark wizard had no evidence that Dalton was here to deliver him to Zeal's audience but he estimated the factors and heralded an educated guess. Unfortunately, in answer to the name, he had the most honored pleasure (Dalton's words, not his) to know the man himself.
"Well, don't keep her majesty waiting. Attend me to her." Magus offered a sardonic bow. He had never liked Dalton but at least he was entertainment. When the advisor muttered a sentence along the lines of 'arrogant bastard' the sorcerer surreptitiously lit a lock aflame.
It required a fortune of control for Magus to refrain from laughing as Dalton went livid. Dalton blew so much on the blazing strand that it frayed into charred split ends. He pointed an accusing finger at the self-proclaimed prophet and sputtered, "You did that, you slimy jackass!"
Expertly stuffing his own hair, a vibrant wave of blue, into his hood, Magus glided past him. "Since you are so slow, I'll just escort myself." Another bow and he was out the door. The fuming advisor came at his heels.
Throughout the large corridor Magus had plenty of time to absorb his childhood world. Physically it was much the same. He made his way over purple carpet and black-and-blue tiles. In line of sight stood at least one statue or bookcase or plant. Candelabras burned on many polished wood tables. Pillars with gold-leaved tops and elegant marble stairs lead him to the throne room.
But beyond the naked eye existed an atmosphere he only now detected. Self-significant Enlightened whispered words of his mysterious appearance. Not pleasant ones, either. They were consumed by a passion to enhance Zeal Kingdom. They spoke of dominance and immortality.
They were the ocean--devoured by the lust of power.
I must never permit myself to become absorbed, as have they. If I seek to slaughter Lavos this rage must never take hold of me. I need to cultivate this fury to energy against him not for him. How easy it is to let lust command. I must resist.
Though Magus had an amulet himself, he waited for Dalton to open the door. It would do him no good to offer obvious hints that he lying about his identity. This guise as an oracle would only serve him as he sought his mother's confidence if he followed the incantation to the letter', so to speak.
Dalton swung the massive door. Time to fry, Magus knew.
Oh, god, I'm going to meet my mother. The woman who once played with me as a child and then saw fit to get rid of me and let me suffer a hideous fate. My own mother.
A waterfall of emotions erupted over the sorcerer as he strode up the violet carpet. The throne room was absolutely stunning but such was the power of his feelings that he could only catch a glimpse. They absorbed him, stabbed him, and nearly brought him to his knees. It was just an effort to put one foot in front of the other.
This is murder! Magus silently cried as his eyes dilated. I have to find some way to deal with this now. And fast. God, I didn't expect it to be so powerful. So much for self-control. I need ...oh, yes...
When Magus was new to killing (how far back was that?) and refused to do so Ozzie sent an assassin after him. The intent had been to break the then-teen's aversion to murder. And break it he did. The sorcerer slew his would-be killer in such a brutal fashion that Ozzie himself refused to speak of it. The lust for blood shocked him. But the aversion wasn't the only thing that was shattered. Magus went insane.
It was then that Magus recognized his vulnerability. To escape the madness he devised an imaginary place in his mind where emotion could not enter. The vault of his mind, of course, never contained that secret world but it let Magus pretend that he could only feel if he so willed it. Like damning a waterfallor an ocean.
Mentally descending into that safe haven the sorcerer managed to harness and conceal his state of distress. Easy it was not but finally he succeeded. Now he gazed up at his mother without fear, without remorse, without anger. Without emotion.
The woman who gave birth to him smiled fiendishly. It was a demon smile from a demon woman. She rested easily in her massive throne, hair the same color of his flashing against pearl earrings. A gold torque encircled her neck and bracelets gleamed on one arm while rings were on the other. She was a rainbow of color but a heart of black.
Scientists buzzed around the chamber. Enlightened whispered among themselves. Dalton yawned purposely. The situation was as it should when Magus caught a glance at the trio.
Standing to the left of his matriarch was Alfador, his precious cat, himself as Janus, and his sister, Schala. Alfador meowed curiously. Janus stared with skeptical eyes. Though they were of great importance, it was the third that snared his attention. Schala sighed a weary sigh, circles around her beautiful eyes. A crimson ribbon restrained her azure-violet mane framing earrings identical to their mother's. She smiled down at Janus to reassure the boy. Unknowingly, she pacified Magus.
As if by some connection of the soul the two, unified, clasp a hand about their amulets. Schala... he whispered in his mind. He witnessed a twinge of emotion register. Just as he was considering another attempt he heard a screech of magic and then a thud followed by sharp pain. The agony darted up his side. When he touched the wound, he was astonished to see he emerged with blood.
"No one enters without bowing to me, understood!?!"
The source was self-evident. Adjusting his sweeping cloak, Magus laid a gloved hand on his heart, while its mate crossed over his back and he dipped with a bent knee. Straightening he stared at the woman who had hurt him, in more manners than one, once again. He exhibited no fear. "Yes, your most exalted majesty. The error shall not be repeated. I apologize for offending your greatness."
The flattery was accepted (with Dalton snickering in the background) and finally the game commenced. "Your majesty I have heard of your greatness far and wide. I am here to offer my services, as an expert prophet, to you. I submit to your command. My life is yours."
Her cheeks drew back in a wolfish smile. "A prophet, aye? My, but you would be useful. If you're real that is."
"I assure you, your most highness, that I am real."
Now this was a curve ball. "What?"
Her array of jewelry clanged as she bent forward. She snarled, "Are you deaf or just simply stupid? Didn't your mother teach you to pay attention!? I want you to prove you are not a fake. Do something fancy. Give an augury."
If it wasn't for that secret hole in his mind, Magus might have lost everything right then and there. As it was the situation tore him utterly from his element. His stomach tightened unpleasantly. Bless the reaper! I don't have any prophecy for this. I am living this first hand! Though the mention of his attentiveness (a bit of bitter irony he noted) irritated him to no end the demand itself was what really disturbed him. He hadn't thought about formulating a divination. Before he could reply, she addressed him again.
"What is your name?"
He glanced momentarily at Janus. No, I'm not him. "I go by the name of Magus the prophet."
The sorcerer was immensely relieved when the queen smiled. "Magus," she purred, testing the name on her tongue. "A very good name. Now, are you ready to give a prophecy or shall I have you... detained?"
The barrier he had erected around his person did not falter even though he knew what that meant. Imprisonment, exile, or even execution. It was now or never. He concentrated hard to remember if anything significant occurred this day. Nothing came to mind.
Queen Zeal opened her mouth to speak the words that would likely call him curtains when a sudden inspiration saved him. He had been thinking how the wave of animosity was so like Zeal when he remembered the word ocean ...Ocean Palace! Of course! It may not be a prophecy per say but it'll have to suffice. "Your eminence, I do have some sort of augury for you. However, it is confidential and I can only impart the information to you."
His mother smiled, thought, and approved in the same breath. She gestured with her index finger and he approached. So near to her Magus needed all the self-control he could muster. Ascending the daises, after appropriately calibrating his hood, the self-proclaimed prophet bent to her ear and whispered, "The Ocean Palace shall be completed in nine days. It is then you will make an announcement that will forever alter history."
He withdrew to await her appraisal. A grin later and Magus breathed another sigh of relief. "Excellent!" she cried. Of course, it was greatfor you that is. For me, I'll never be the same again. I lost everything . . . my childhood...my cherished pet...my innocence...even Schala.
The pupils of his mother gleamed. "Excellent! No one is supposed to know about my secret announcement! Delicious! Oh, a prophet you are!"
"A prophet he's not!"
As if an enormous wind suddenly exploded forth heads spun, hair swirled, eyes flashed. All eyes were greeted with the same sight: an immaculately robed male with raven-black hair. His stark cloak, black as well, was stitched with silver threads and runes. An equally handsome woman who sported a head of liquid sunlight accompanied him. Though the female was ravishing it was the robed figure that commanded attention. And got it.
"Who are you?!" the queen exclaimed. "Who are you and what is your business?"
The newcomer made a bow that put Magus' to shame (not that he would ever admit it!) and smoothly answered, "Oh, esteemed majesty, I am a true prophet and here to spare you the lies of this imposter!" The former prince took an immediate disliking to this man. But was he ever charismatic...
"How dare you call me an imposter!?" Magus strode so close to the newcomer that he could detect the smell of parchment and the like. And each experienced an instantaneous enmity toward the other. I have no time for some fool's attempt to upstart me! Then, witnessing a glimmer in the man's eyes a cold hand gripped his heart. Bless the reaper! He knows! He knows it all!
A mere glance and Magus knew his history was familiar to this man. The mysterious figure returned the stare and spoke a thousand words with it. Oh, yes, Janus. I know you are the prince. I know your mission. I know you are a fraud. I'll spare you the effort of questionsI know everything! Though the former prince couldn't affirm if those words were right on the gold its meaning was not lost on him
There was but one last thing to do. Jeopardize his life to assure his acceptance.
"I challenge you, he who claims I am a fake. To a duel."
The eyebrow's lifted. He seemed to ponder if it was worth the effort. Once he glanced up and down Magus he answered, reserving the sum of his assessment to himself. "And I accept. My name is Jarl. And you have just met your match." His gaze nearly penetrated Magus' barrier, his safe haven. But almost was all he attained. By sheer force of will the sorcerer's face remained neutral. Odd as it is, I should thank Ozzie for sending that assassin after me.
His beautiful assistant, the one with the gold hair, grabbed Jarl's arm. "No, Jarl. Don't." When she stole a look at Magus, the sorcerer detected an odd air about her. Just as Magus was wondering she offered a wink. Is this some sort of diversion or does she really have an eye for me? Without quite knowing why he returned the wink in kind.
Jarl shrugged his companion off. He and Magus faced each other, fire-and-lilac gleaming against shimmering silver. Neither drew their weapons. They seemed more intent on glaring at one another in pure loathing. Magus did not give ground to Jarl maintaining his mind in that secret sanctuary. No anger. No fear. No emotion.
A blur of violet fur and Alfador rubbed against the sorcerer's legs. He purred in the contentment of a feline that had been reunited with his long-lost master. Come to think of, that's exactly the way the story did go. Oh, god, Alfador, not now. You'll give me away! His cheeks crimsoned when he realized Jarl was grinning. And in the background was Dalton's infuriating laughter.
"Ha! Ha!...(giggle)...Blessed Zeal that mangy cat...Ha!...(snicker)...likes the prophet! Oh, this is rich!" Dalton's snickering was no little annoyance to Magus so he stealthily spotted a stray strand of his hair, aimed, fired, and the wild hair was aflame again.
As the queen's advisor danced in a circle, the sorcerer resumed his attempt to detach Alfador. The cat stubbornly remained wedded to Magus' ankle in a circulation-severing hold. He could feel Zeal's amusement and Schala's bewilderment. Jarl revealed his humor only in his eyes while the rest of the audience stared and snorted. Blessed the reaper, dose it have to end this waydefeated by an overzealous cat? My own cat, to boot? Sure, Magus had ironies in his life but he severely doubted they were as mortifying as this.
"Alfador! Alfador! Alfador! Come back here this instant!" In the heat of the moment Magus had forgotten about himself. Janus darted over. He didn't even acknowledge the mage's existence. Wrapping two arms around the mass of tangled fur, he dragged Alfador back to Schala. The cat, meanwhile, meowed piteously until he recognized his captor. If a cat could express human emotion Magus would swear he saw Alfador looked puzzled.
Oh, god, that's me. Me as a child. Maybe not a saintly child but innocent nonetheless. Me before I sacrificed my humanity to feed the needs of Ozzie and others. Me before...But he unclenched his fists. Now was not the time to feel sorry for himself. With the use of his illusory safeguard his attention riveted on the task at hand. His last thought was of how he should thank himself for the unwitting savequite literally himself.
Now his mother regained control. "You'll not shed blood on these sacred grounds. I hereby, under royal order, command you both to work on the Zeal project. Whomever I deem the true prophet shall become my second-in-command. Understood?"
Dalton wailed in protest but Jarl seemed satisfied. Magus decided it would suffice. First objective achieved. Good work, Magus. Of course, that was only the easy part. More obstacles would have to be overcome before I can face Lavos. But when that dose happenand it will!it'll be I who is triumphant. As his mind swirled with these thoughts his touch sense told him he'd been struck where his wound was. And it stung.
It was Jarl. He smiled a chill smile that Magus was so used to giving others...not receiving.
"If you truly believe your own words..." His voice spoke the words in a deathly murmur. "...and you have no fear of knowledge then come to Valor's library seven sunsets from now. At dusk. Fail to appear and I may be forced to reveal your... " His pupils gestured meaningfully at Janus. "...unique heritage."
Swallowing but determined not emerge from the recess of his mind Magus merely nodded. He didn't quite trust his own voice. But the response appeased Jarl and he took his companion's hand and departed. With him gone the sorcerer felt a huge weight lifted off his chest. Now I'm constrained to see this man, this Jarl. How dose he know my history? What dose he want? And, most importantly, what will he do with this information?
Magus didn't know. He doubted he wanted to know. The consequences were too grave.
Time to speak to Schala before I lose the courage to reveal my identity to her. He sighed deeply forcing the anxiety from his blood. Focusing inward he melted into his safe world and was liberated from fear.
But when the former prince spun on his heel, violet cloak rippling and sapphire hair spanning, she was gone.
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