by Elaina J Davidson
When your world has already been on the brink of ruin and the same witch is threatening to do so again, what do you do? You have the power to act, you are a First Rank necromancer and you are able to wield the Maghdim Medaillon, an ancient and magical device that can save your world. Unfortunately the act of stepping forth heralds a hangman’s noose, for sorcery is forbidden. This is Rain’s dilemma.
The witch is clever. She makes a deal with the legendary and terrifying Arcana, a chaos myth from another dimension. She seeks revenge for the death of her son and has devised a ‘game’ of diabolical intricacy.
The witch is not so clever. She has overlooked the Maghdim Medaillon...and has no idea a Dark Lord is waiting beyond the chaos myth for the opportunity to possess it. And the Medaillon’s creator has waited millennia to hold it once more. He will do anything to possess it first.
Rain is directly in the path of titans.
Gathering of Rain
He whispered over the golden disc- a flattened sphere the size of his palm- as he set it into the vice and took the engraving tool in hand to lightly mark the first glyph. He murmured the words of the ancient enchantment over and over without impatience until it was finally complete, and then whispered some more as he polished. It took a long time, many months, and he rushed nothing. Spoke of it to no one. This was a personal labour of love. Only when the time was right would he reveal his handiwork.
He possessed the tools and skills to achieve his goal- jewellery tools, and the voice that was impetus and creation. To infuse inanimate gold, to gift atoms sensitivity, to compel unassailable eternity, required tone, repetition and emotion. Imperative, however, was emotion, for it determined the ultimate nature of the infused device. If fashioned in anger, the consequence was a tool of magic capable of confusion; indifference led to instability, hate to darkness, mockery to deception, egotism to arrogance, and love to illumination and enlightenment. He intended only love.
The Supreme Wisdom- the Maghdim Medaillon- of the Valleur was made tangible and it was beautiful. On the day he laid it in a protective casket, he thought: I am done now. The future is secure.
He was wrong.
Summer on Valaris
Year 9313 a.s.
Galilan – Capital city
Rain snapped his fingers and a tiny flame danced upon his palm. A sorcerer’s trick. And a noose slung over a branch.
He ignored the danger of discovery.
Fingers closed over the flame.
There was no pain. Enclosing magic, even this tiny nuance, gifted him the ability to witness events beyond his immediate surroundings. It was a tiny signature; the witch Infinity would not feel him looking. And if she did, it did not matter; he needed a way forward.
He found her swiftly.
Murky vapour crept in deliberate and weaving tendrils over the silent ripples of a lake.
He fished those shores as a lad. Infinity was in the lake district south of Chiss, the town nearest the barrier of the Great Dividing Forest.
The orchestra of tiny birds lapsed into silence.
He could not determine sound well over distance, but sensed the sudden and brooding quiet.
The witch emerged from cover and lifted her arms high. She whispered and the shadow mist lifted and swelled and then bled away. Blue hair shifted in the slight breeze. She moved to the lake’s edge and gazed north. Her enchantment was in motion. Unless another spoke words of magic, it could not now be undone.
Rain’s fingers tightened as he shifted focus to follow the mist. He sensed it carried evil and intent. Whether or not Infinity drowned in the lake right now was of less importance. Grimly, as he tracked the enchantment, he hoped she would drown.
Chiss nestled in bright sunshine. Chiss would feel Infinity’s revenge first. Mist was already obliterating the light...and it would also obliterate hope.
Rain’s fingers relaxed as he relinquished the thread in shock. The witch was no longer confining herself to isolated incidents of malevolence.
Chiss was in terrible danger.
This day, Valaris, is the first of final reckoning. The malicious echo of her thought enveloped him and Rain hurtled up, clattered down the stairs and was on his way to the front door when Rees called out:
‘Brother! Where are you going in such a hurry?’
He halted. He stayed at his mother’s house when he was in Galilan and it suited him, just as it made her happy to have him visit, but it meant he sometimes had to deal with his sister. ‘Rees, not now.’
She approached, dark eyes narrowing. ‘You’re far too secretive these days. Is it a woman?’
It was a bloody woman all right, but not of this world. ‘I have to go. Tell Mother it will be a few days.’
Rees frowned. ‘Tell her yourself. This isn’t the local inn.’
His mother entered the foyer. ‘Let him go, Rees.’ She moved past her daughter and took Rain’s arm and steered him to the door. ‘Rain needs to speak to someone and it can no longer wait.’
‘Mother?’ Rain whispered.
‘I am not a fool, son. You have to see that old reprobate Avendeath, don’t you?’
He simply stared at her. His mother lived in a strange world of the mind, but right now he would call anyone a liar who accused her of it.
‘The day comes when we shall be honest, Rain, but not yet. Is Avendeath in trouble?’
‘And it is many days to Chiss.’
That surprised him as much. She knew where Avendeath was.
She prodded him through the door. ‘Your horse is strong, but best get started.’ She smiled sadly and turned away, and was lost to reality again.
He wondered then how much she knew of his real profession. He didn’t restore old manuscripts, although he could uphold the subterfuge. He was the leader of an order that trained sorcerers and until this minute he had believed family separate from the danger of discovery.
Rees sent him a sharp glance, but he ignored her. He was already calculating how quickly he could call a meeting to inform the Mantle of his intention to head north, and why.
Infinity was on the move; he needed to be as well.
Rain inserted his key into the old-fashioned lock. It needed a firm turn and an irritated curse before disengaging. He passed through, grimacing over the smell of rancid ink.
Beyond the ancient press another door required an unlocking enchantment. He murmured the words and the door swung inward. The light was on- the others had arrived. A moment later part of the opposite wall trundled outward to reveal a steep flight of rough stone stairs vanishing into darkness below.
In the anteroom at the foot of those stairs Jalle Senna and Mete Lin of the Mantle waited at a table, a candle flickering light.
There was nothing remotely modern beyond the hidden door. Sorcery functioned best without the distractions of technology, even basic as it was on Valaris. Shelves in the shadows bore the burdens of decaying manuscripts and beyond, chamber after chamber, were the Mantle’s secret archives. Many secrets were kept in the dark below. Another exit led to a jetty on Galilan River to allow files, books and scrolls to come and go unmarked. That doorway was heavily guarded, and didn’t allow for secrecy in meeting.
Rain nodded a cursory greeting and sat, carefully noting the sound and activity in the region. All quiet.
Jalle Senna was the oldest member of the Mantle. Approaching now his seventy-fifth year, he no longer concerned himself with tact and pretty words.
‘Why have you called this hasty meeting?’ he asked immediately.
Rain leaned forward. ‘Infinity has been sighted near the Great Dividing Forest. This is independently confirmed.’ He tapped the table to punctuate his remarks. ‘A farmer walking on Hogshill, a blacksmith in Glear Valley, a young lad below the Eastern Range...and four reports from Mantle members. Every sighting is validated. A blue-skinned woman, and immediately after something in the region is manipulated. And the abnormal deaths? She is the source.’
Senna gaped. ‘We have heard of the strange murders, but...’
‘That is not the worst of it,’ Rain added grimly. ‘Two hours ago she enchanted mist to enter Chiss. It isn’t benign.’
‘How do you know?’ Mete Lin whispered. He was only slightly younger than Senna.
Rain snapped his fingers for the flame and closed his hand. ‘I see her.’
Infinity was an ancient enemy, one who had Valaris on the brink of annihilation three thousand years ago. The Mantle always believed she would herald a new war of attrition. Valaris had murdered her son.
Lin’s tone was sombre when he said: ‘If Infinity is the source, it could be war Valarians confront again.’ He stared in horror at Rain’s hand. ‘Where did you learn that?’
‘It doesn’t matter. Focus on the situation. Avendeath is in Chiss.’
A thoughtful frown creased Senna’s forehead. ‘Rain, this could be a renewal of hostilities between Infinity and the Deities.’
‘Clearly,’ Rain said dryly. ‘Where Infinity is, the Deities follow.’
The Deities stepped in to stop Infinity and her son Drasso. The legend of the Deities was now also myth millennia later, but that they were immortal and possessed greater powers of sorcery was not in dispute. Without their aid Valaris would have succumbed. With their aid Valaris was nonetheless torn apart, and many Valarians regarded them as equally dangerous.
Senna said roughly: ‘We must make decisions!’
‘They will be made,’ Rain said curtly.
Mete Lin interspersed before Senna could erupt: ‘What will the mist do to Chiss?’
‘I have no idea. I hope Avendeath can tell us. I hope he knows how to counteract it.’
Senna frowned. ‘You’re going to Chiss?’
‘Do we abandon Avendeath?’ Rain hissed.
‘Of course not, but send another...’
‘Someone expendable? No. Besides the danger to Chiss, Valarians are demanding answers for the murders and many whisper of sorcery. There’s a rise in anti-magic vigilantism. That alone could lead to confrontation and then Infinity has what she needs- we’ll kill each other and she’ll laugh from the sidelines. I need to feel the evil in Chiss.’
‘Feel?’ Lin whispered.
What was the matter with them? They knew he could feel the intent and depth of sorcery. Time was of the essence, however; there was little to be gained by further discussion. He rose. ‘I head north.’
‘Rain, Lin and I need more information...’
‘We are out of time. Check the reports. Is this not why the Mantle exists- to spring into action when there is threat? Do we or do we not use our talents? Are we going to crawl into holes to hide from vigilantism? Did you not force me into leadership because I am able to see all angles? The burden of deployment is mine...but we need Avendeath safe first.’
‘Take the Maghdim Medaillon with you, Rain,’ Mete Lin suggested hoarsely. He stood up as well, pointing a finger. ‘You may have need of it.’
If he advocated that, Lin was worried. He had on numerous occasions insisted it remain in its protective casket. The Mantle, after all, was the protector of that dangerous magical device. The Mantle was born because the Medaillon existed. It was their prime directive.
Senna snapped: ‘We leave that bloody disc in place until we know exactly what it’s needed for.’
Rain stared at him. ‘And we shall only know that when I use it. How long do we wait to find out if it can help?’
‘Do you want to find out now?’ Senna snapped back. ‘It may help the witch for all we know.’
‘I say again, how long do we wait? The Mantle, potentially, is all that stands between Infinity and annihilation, and that damned Medaillon could save...’
‘It could also destroy us. We can deal with the Medaillon after Chiss.’
Rain gave him an expressionless stare. ‘I do not want the Medaillon. I hope we never use it, to be honest.’ He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. ‘I suggest you call outlying members in and we meet in the chapel next time. Mantle Printing is too exposed if the authorities start asking questions.’ He paused there, frowned, and then added: ‘We cannot allow time to pass inactive. Put the reports of Infinity together and deliver them anonymously to the Electan. It may buy us grace when we act.’
Senna grimaced. ‘The man hates sorcery.’
‘He is also Valaris’ secular leader. He needs to know.’
‘It will be as you say,’ Senna sighed. ‘God, that will escalate tension.’
‘It cannot be avoided. Senna, look to the Medaillon; ensure it remains safe.’
‘We’ll be wary, Rain,’ Mete said quickly.
Senna sighed. ‘Good hunting.’
Gathering of Rain is currently unpublished. For more information, please leave a comment for the author.
Discovery Showcase Information
There are currently seven excerpts in the queue. Here are the upcoming works, in the order in which they may appear:
- The Ninth Avatar
- The Zambinos of Blue Hill: The Proving
Comments are welcome!