“Elder Mages remain an enigma. A lost civilisation whose relics have become weapons of the Gods.” Jeremiah Delalande
Dragon Stone is a long standing WIP. Thus far it’s back story is already over a full novel. Much of it relating to an elf and dwarf overseen by a scribe ensnared inside a conjurers bubble. One day it might start the journey in chronological order…one day…
Inspiration came from an image found on Pixabay combined with this months BlogBattle prompt, “FRAGMENT.”
This story is an extension of concepts that first appeared here as Dragon Stone; Originalis
It was once said the Elder Mages held great vision. An unassailable grip on reality, the power to transcend worlds and masters of magical lore. They created the Dragon Stones. These harnessed the great wyverns and bound them to a rider. Thirteen once rode the lands sweeping all aside in their wake.Of these stones only four have been identified as existing. Black, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald. As with many things, time turns fact to myth, sullies it with folklore handed down through generations. They become whispers of the Gods.
The Black Stone was found by a blacksmith, rather the Stone found Wayland. Another fell to a Wizard whose path seeks an oracle. That road cost many lives and led to a wasteland. The Emerald, it’s said, lies in the hands of a girl no longer present in the now. Like Wayland, she lies between worlds. Detached from her physical being.
As with many civilisations, the Elders gave no conscious thought to an end of days. Yet, as with all things, their world ebbed and atrophied. What remains are relics, lost in the earth and rock. Layered under forest or ancient drifts of sand. Eroded in time and memory.
Other magics existed too. The most powerful being a conjurers bubble. A shroud condensed in time and space locking it’s target in a moment and sending it deep into the future. Escape requires a key. Without it tampering reduces the bubble to a singularity, crushing it’s moment and all within. It’s said they were traps or prisons.
Smoke rose in drifts. Echoes of a campfire the dwarf had stoked with logs the night before. His eyes reflected the glow as he sat lost in time. What was it she once said? Eyes are the windows of the soul. His were distant. Locked in the memory of the elder portal when Yish was dragged into another place leaving him cast toward the relics of the Keep.
He let the dream flow. A plane of ice and the sanctuary where he’d communed with the Amanuensis. It seemed everyone was lost.
“Naz?” A voice reached him from afar. He blinked and drew on a pipe that had gone out hours ago. “You’re losing yourself dwarf.”
He half smiled. Something lost beneath his beard. “Aye, I was thinking…”“Of him?” she interrupted. “Anything I should know about?”
He stood and stamped life back into his legs. “Sadly no,” he turned to face her, “I was merely revisiting the past.”
“You mean the future.”
“My past then. If you consider it in the chronology I experience it in.”
Yish smiled, “So be it dwarf, but what caused the mind drift?”
“That,” he said, pointing his pipe at the megalith half consumed by a cliff, “we’ve seen that before too. Not as a giant encased in rock, but the castle that was being taken in by the mountain upon which it once stood.”
She nodded. “More elder magic Naz. A world that was has moved on and the earth is trying to hide it from us. The more I learn about the elders the less I want to know.”
He watched her eyes dim as she tried to find the words.
“You remember the scrolls back in the thaumaturgical library?”
“Not my domain Yish.”
“I suppose not, but they were all carried warnings. Old ones too, possibly even dating to when they were written rather than later annotation.” She stared at the cliff. More precisely at the sleeved upturned stone hand that reached from it. Upon that palm hovered a globe of light shaped as a world. “It’s disturbing Naz.”
“Unusual I would say.”
“Do you not think something like that might have drawn notice down the millennia?”
He cast his pipe back into his gunna. “Now you mention it, but that means…” he tailed off.
Her eyes flicked upwards. She resisted sighing, but considered he knew her too well not to have added it anyway.
“Well,” he continued, “if we assume nobody has seen it before, then it’s appearance now is for our benefit. Something has reached out from within the rock with…” he paused looking for the right phrase and failed, “…an offering?”
“And if that is so, will our stone giant soon break free? Then what? You do the math, that hand is bigger than the outer gates of the Keep.”
“I prefer the idea of an offering from the mountain. It’s showing us, well you, something hidden from before living memory.”
“You’re the sorceress that dabbles in magical archaeology.”
“And you are the geologist.”
“My rocks don’t throw out hands with lights on.”
No argument came back. Yish already knew this was something she’d heard about from lore and scrolls. There were only two in the entire Keep that could create sorcerers bubbles and this, she suspected, was exactly what rested on the hand. Her heart was tripping. Could it be?
“It’s a bubble isn’t it?” Naz could see the elf was trembling. “You think he could be trapped in it?”
“It’s,” her voice waivered, “possible Naz.”
“Conjecture.”One word that drew her mind back. “You think not?”
“You once told me The Amanuensis was cast long into the future as The Keep fell. Locked in a conjurers bubble protecting the Vault. That is our future. This is now. What if an elder Mage also trapped something inside one. If whatever lies inside is half as powerful as you claim them to be then attempting to unlock it might have consequences. A box of holocausts and ghosts. Even your Guild has only scratched the surface of the Elder civilisation.”
“And inside might be their equivalent of my Amanuensis. Saved as their world fell to take what was into their future.” She still couldn’t reject the possibility of temporal distortion and this might actually be him.
Naz was growing more agitated, something was off. “I thought they were traps and prisons.”
“Long ago yes, but I also feel they were so much more. Elder Mages traversed planes through portals. Those tied to Dragon Stones couldn’t bring their steeds with them. However a conjurers bubble could. It shrinks to fit.”
“So…” he reached back for his pipe, “it’s either an escape route for some ancient wizard, a prison for an unthinkable adversary they cast out or…a wyvern?”
“Quite, but odds for me are relic from the past. I do not think it is the holding pen of our trapped scribe.”
“My trapped scribe,” she corrected him.
“I know,” he said.
Naz woke with sunrise. The fire just embers long since cold. At first all looked normal. Until he stood up and cast his gaze toward the mountain. The sleeve of rock reaching from the cliff was bereft of half its palm and three digits. Far below their fragments scattered in the rockfall and scree. The conjurers bubble was missing.
So was Yish. What have you done Elf? His eyes flicked back and forth. Her gunna was gone. The air felt different too. He inhaled deeply. Ozone or something akin to, what? A cavern where smoke once sat. An after smell, the decay of conflagration …or war. He’d sensed this smell many times when fires smouldered over a dead field.
He caught a sound. A voice he recognised. Half turning he realised it was coming from within and not on the winds.
“Amanuensis?” he ventured to the empty clearing.
Tidings Nazir. It has taken much to reach out to this nexus in time.
“Where is she?”
Gone from your moment dwarf. While you slumbered the hand reached out. The sorceress was deceived.
Naz, rolled back. “Gone from my moment? What does that mean?”
One or other may now lie inside a bubble.
“Are you certain? Should I not have heard the disruption caused by the destruction of the hand?”
Elder magic dwarf. Did you not ask why nobody had seen this offering before? Did you not consider the true reason?
To beguile the elf. To separate. The old mantra divide and conquer.
“A trap then.”
Aye, and a prison. You move seamlessly through a none chronological order. There are doors here that lead throughout time itself.
“Chronomancy? She spoke of that. And at the Keep I heard whispers about those who studied it. Yet when we left you were not yet ascended in status. How have I accepted you as Amanuensis without much thought?”
You are treating your journey in time as linear. Once touched by Elder magic that path twists. It becomes dangerous. To walk in time with no realisation can undo futures, collapse continuum’s, erase life and change history. This point is pivotal. If it cannot be undone then the Keep falls. I am in that time stream now, watching it flux between realities.
“Can it be fixed?”
Aye, if I can escape my moment and return to before the Keep falls there is a chance. Odds are long and a traitor lies in our midst.
Naz stroked his beard. Always riddles and always it should be Yish holding these discussions. He knew rock, not thaumology. “What do I do?”
Find the elf and reverse your present.
The moment first. Determine it’s edge then establish if it is real or fabrication.
Aye, an illusion to discourage or something worse.
“What could be worse?”
A bubble real. If that holds true either you, the elf or both are now flung far into the future where resolution of the error is no longer possible.
Naz held more questions. Not unusual when speaking to the Amanuensis, or his peers back when life ran true. Now it was like talking to ones own mind. Rich in problems and lacking reasoning to solve them. He recalled words of his mine law, “One rock at a time.” A pebble in this case. Find the edge.
He reached out, but the connection was broken. Nothing came back save silence and birdsong. It struck him the latter was a minor detail. If he could hear birds and feel the wind, was it possible he was safe? Could a moment capture the echoes of life and seed them to create no knowledge of the trap? Yish would know, but Yish was elsewhere. Why find the necessary questions after the conversation concluded?
Naz glanced upwards. Half a day gone if the suns track ran true. It gave him direction. Not that he needed it. Visiting the rock face was the obvious choice.
That had other ideas. As the dwarf reached the lower edge of scree from his side, things shifted. He was aware the air looked wrong. It hazed and took on a dense, humid aura. What lay ahead became blurred. His steps slowed as if something pushed back not wanting him to continue. Inside his head began to draw the onset of an ache yearning to grow. He felt nauseous. Sweat formed on his brow as the inner tension grew deeper.
“Naz,” a voice starting faint began increasing in volume. His name repeated like some ceremonial drum beat threatening to become a frenzy. Almost ritualistic. A bacchanal of drink, hallucinogenic smoke and sacrifice. The vision of which grew stronger.
His path ahead became a spiders web in which he was now ensnared. Forward motion was all but impossible, withdrawing was akin to escaping glue that had set firm.
“Naz,” this time a shout inside. “You’re inside an elder illusion field. Open your eyes, wake up.”
He could feel the power of the send. The voice he knew. He tried to call out,“Yish?”
“I hear you Naz. Think hard. You’re being deceived. It wants you to destroy the hand.”
“But it is destroyed.”
“No, I’m looking at it right now. You’re fitting beside me. It wants you to believe I’ve already destroyed it.”
“I can’t move forward or back. He said you were being mislead and destroyed it. I can see the fragments. The conjurers bubble is gone.”
“And did he call me by name?”
Naz thought hard. His head was near bursting with effort. “No, he called you The Elf.”
“Never would be call me that now Naz. Whatever lies inside the bubble has used your memories against you. You call me Elf, not him.”
Something inside Naz fizzed. He could feel a short circuit impairing his brain. A power struggle that broke. He felt himself falling. Whatever held him collapsed. Deadweight now, tumbling in the darkness, over and over. He felt sick as conscious thought ended.
When his eyes eventually reopened he wished otherwise.
“You gave me quite a turn Dwarf.”
His vision cleared momentarily, “I gave me quite a turn too Elf.”
An interesting story.❤️
I’m registered for Nano, (which was tricky, finding blog battle and all). However, it all seems to be handled now, and I’ll see you there. : )
Oops, should have read this before replying to the last one haha. Great to hear you’ve found us. Not long to go now 😳
Speaking of Nano–I’m registered and all that, went through a few tutorials, etc. I don’t know how to join the blog battle group, though. Could you send me a link or otherwise guide me? I’ve logged in, but I don’t see an invitation or message. Searching for blog battle netted zero results. You can contact me here: https://cathleentownsend.com/about/contact-cathleen-townsend/. That goes straight to my email, which I check a lot.
Otherwise, I guess I’ll just pass. I’m already writing 500-1000 words most days, so I don’t need Nano for the discipline. I just wanted to support blog battle.
I’m sure I sent a group invite after your original comment on the NaNo post Cathleen. I’ll check to see if it’s still active, but just in case it isn’t can you give me your NaNo user name again?
Re searching there, it won’t come up due to the group settings they instigate. The only way in is via the invite. It should appear as a notification to accept or decline. I’ll try again once you drop your user name.
It’s all good, Gary. I left you a second comment to show I figured it out, but maybe you didn’t get that one. No extra effort needed on your part, but thanks for being willing to help. I registered two projects, although only one went in as April Nano. : )
Yes I saw it after reading this. I’ve added your blog URL to the list there too now. All good and great to have you aboard too 🙂
Your writing (sentence structure and such) fits the genre of this piece perfectly. The intro is so mystical and elusive. I really enjoyed that part.
How do you come up with these unique names?
Very kind Sam. It’s good to know after over a year wandering this landscape I’ve “tuned into” the narrative style I was hoping for! I’ve thought a great deal about this world build and do have the concept in mind for the CampNaNo.
Re names. Which do you mean? Characters or things like illusion fields? The amanuensis as a concept was created for an A to Z challenge. No more than a scribe interviewing my cast list and places from other stories. Alas by the third letter he’d evolved and began creating this world. Phantasmagoria was first encountered as the name of an album by The Damned. One of my favourite songs by them is on it too Sanctum Sanctorium. Yish is actually Ynshael Faeroris. Most people that know her struggle with the pronunciation so it drops to Yish with close friends.
I also used to play RPG a lot in a former life. Then a text based online MUD. Writing and interacting for that was really good for creativity, idea generating and observing how others used style in character versus who they are out of character.
For the elder Mages I have to think about their civilisation structure. That created some of the sorcery aspects. In particular the Dragon Stones and how they functioned in conjunction with elder portals. All the knowledge was lost as their civilisation collapsed. Yish and Naz are, effectively, thaumaturgical archaeologists from the Keep. Although that’s now a ruin too with the Amanuensis forced into his own conjurers bubble by another sorcerer in an attempt to both save him and restore the time line to prevent the destruction from happening.
I digress, names generally appear while writing. I find it harder in unconnected pieces. Often I’ll spend time delving through a thesaurus too. Take a word that fits what I want and then hunt down the right one to use.
I like the idea about using a thesaurus to come up with names. I’ve thought about it in the past but never really used it in my writing. I’d say some genres allow for it more than others. Nonetheless, I found your names quite unique, which makes them memorable.
I use online ones, they allow fast research and often divergence in what I’m looking for. One thing I do think though is it helps grow vocabulary and assists over using particular words. The genre thing I do agree with too. Especially when looking for unusual, say, buildings, landmarks or things like ignus fatui. If they become memorable to a reader then I’ll take that as a huge compliment to doing it right haha
I salvaged a physical thesaurus a few months ago (someone was throwing it away), so I plan on using it. I just have to pull it out and put it next to my writing supplies. Just like I did with one of my other writing book.
I think writers should definitely have one to hand! Kudos on the saving one too. I tend to use this online one
It’s really good for fast transitioning between words, finding antonyms and other word roots. Actual book ones are good when pondering a word, but if writing is flowing then I prefer rapid searching. Just a thought haha
A fantastic twisting of the mind. To tell the dwarf his friend was deceived, whilst attempting to deceive him… Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Quite a power, too, to pull such an illusion over the dwarf’s eyes. Is the conjurer powerful enough to do the same to the elf? Nice nod to the reveal at the beginning, by the way: “You’re losing yourself, dwarf.” How true that comes to be!
I wonder, is that actually the Amanuensis? And if so, how would one save him from the outside? I assume the elf would know.
Some very beautiful turns of phrase here, Gary. My favourite being, “Could a moment capture the echoes of life and seed them to create no knowledge of the trap?” Something about that line really stirred within me. Lovely writing, as always. 🙂
Very generous Joshua, to be honest (as I may have already mentioned elsewhere) I started with the intention of it being “our” Amanuensis. Part way into the conversation I found the narrative voice was wrong. Took me a while to rethink it before an epiphany moment that told me the reason was because it wasn’t him. That said, in another piece, I have him wondering if he caused the keep to fall. In his bubble his memory is vague and he can’t recall what happened or why. The bubble here has several options. It drags more to the release of my main antagonist. Ie it’s a prison. That character is full of the glam. That said it could also be a secondary bubble created by the elder Mages as their civilisation collapsed to safeguard their secrets and carry knowledge forwards.
The other twist is one you suggest. It is the Amanuensis trying to break out. That said his timeline is way in the future. Not that that matters much in my worlds haha.
The elf does know it’s not him now too. The unwritten part I wanted to add is her version of the same timeline as Naz. What does she wake to? Naz unconscious living his version or her inside a second illusion field where she is lured in until realising that the bubble isn’t what it seems. Twisted between wanting it to be him and realising quickly it isn’t. Her sorcery is easily capable of breaking an illusion field once it’s recognised. That would tie in with her reaching to Naz. Both versions prevent the elder bubble from being shattered.
To answer your question on saving from the outside the answer is not directly. Inside each bubble is a key. The amnesia aspect is to prevent it being revealed. To the inmate days recycle with confusion fields. You joined the tale when the amanuensis had broken that aspect realising he was trapped in the same day. His knowledge of his prison was in the ability to reach out in his mind. Yish told him how to escape, but he doesn’t know what his key is. Get it wrong and the bubble shrinks to a singularity crushing everything in it.
With this elder bubble, the key is the illusion field. If the inmate can get someone to break the hand inside the field, it unlocks that bubble. If it gets broken without the field then it deconstructs. Hence the hand only appears if the mage thinks he can control the outcome. To anyone else it remains hidden.
I also appreciate you highlighting things I don’t realise I’m writing! I saw the quotes and thought did I really haha
I think the really cool thing with your revelation is that it lines up with the readers’ revelation, too! If you don’t see the twist coming, how on earth will we? Catches us off guard magnificently. King mentioned this method in On Writing — how often we refer back to it!
Marvellously rich lore and universe, Gary. I’ve siad it before, and I’ll say it again — you need to hurry up and start getting these books out there! You’ve got so much of this figured out already, it’s amazing. Need to share it with the world properly! I’ll be first in line to buy a copy — COVID permitting, that is. I seem to recall you mentioning something on ingram spark — is that project still moving ahead?
How true! Kings on writing does crop up many times. Possibly because for both of us his method holds sway? A resonance we both touch maybe. I read a blurb on his Bachman book compilation today. Where he starts with a page with no clue what’s about to happen. A far cry from pre-structuring a story arc. Again I feel maybe that’s why his writing works. He’s writing (reading) as it goes, seeing it unfold as the reader. That’s about as close to how I do it in a more concise explanation!
I could talk to you about the lore inside this one for ages haha. You’re so right in terms of me sitting with it exploring excerpts. That’s created so many ideas and world builds. If I can turn it into actual words then I’d want to read it too. Each time I do a BB piece it’s new. Unexpected twists or turns. Placing it with the chapter I did before with Wayland is tricky now. I did think he had a book of his own once too.
Alas the Ingram spark thing became a procrastinating casualty at the moment. I do like the book, but have a fear other readers that know me here might find the content…how to say…a bit rich. A one off as it were, except the story blends fully with written novels and those in waiting. Maybe I could start with two that are sequels and a bit more off this theme haha.
It’s remarkable, to me, to be able to write a coherent full-length in this matter. Short pieces are one thing, but getting it all to line up for a novel is daunting. (My first few drafts — in a dusty draw — were written this way, but the threads never quite lined up…). As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m giving this prestucturing thing a shot — still working on it, before I put pen to paper proper. I might come away with the same flawed product as before, but we’ll see. Until I get it “right” I think I’m open to all manner of approaches — even if my idols don’t use such a method. 😉
I know, I get the sense that you’ve so much bubbling beneath the surface that you could talk about it for hours. Why I think you need to start putting them out there proper!
Rich in what manner? Not PG-friendly, you mean? I’m very curious! I think we all understand that there’s a difference between the stuff you write here for BB and the stuff you’d write separately. The audiences are perhaps different, so the tone would change to fit.
Very true. As previously said I found short stories much harder as my “natural” flow is character depth and world builds. I did once do sequences of short stories on a more supernatural note here. The Paranormal Brothers that are long buried somewhere. They were isolated pieces that are now embedded into Black Marsh. They required lining up as you mention. However I had another character and an established build that I could slot them into. I think it worked… not entirely sure as very few people have even seen it! In fact that one is the result of a NaNo proper event. No time to think, just do!!
With Dragon Stone stories here I’m not actually inside the novel. It’s all back story. A form of planning maybe? There are events and sequences that might get incorporated if the time lines fit, but most of it is long before the Keep fell and links to the Amanuensis are him going back down the timeline. Although from him that’s virtually everything haha.
I think you should just write. Get it down whatever your brain thinks. True King style, forget re-reading or mucking about just steam roller the sticky bits and move on. Dead easy to say though as I get what you mean. Getting it “right” is often the domain of first edit. Ideas flow better once you have a full book to work off. You actually know what’s what there rather than twisting about half way through. Mind you most of my editing seems now to be limited. Either I’m too slack or I quite like the first draft enough not to tinker too much and wreck it! Bit like BB come to think of it. I never really edit plot lines at all. What’s written first stays. Not sure if that’s arrogance in me or I’m actually able to get it right. Of course if it’s near the latter then I’d say it’s down to practice and years of writing maybe.
As to the last paragraph… on reflection you are not the first to says get them out there. Part of me knows I had a big blip that created a bad habit two years ago when I over thought publishing. Before that I was writing for me. Still am I guess haha. Although is that another way of saying I’m not confident anyone else will like it?? 🤔
Lots of good tension in this piece! From Yish and Naz contemplating the sphere, to his ‘conversation’, to his struggle through the illusion field, I was intrigued about what would happen next. When Naz awoke and saw the hand had crumbled, I too wondered why he didn’t hear any of it, but the explanation (and deception) took care of that matter. Those two sure do get in trouble…. Now for the fun part – I get to learn a new word. When I first read ‘gunna’ I wondered if it was actually ‘gunny’ misspelled, but then you used it again. I presume it’s some kind of bag or pack, but welcome your illumination. 🙂 Oh, and I loved how Yish proved they were dealing with an illusion by the non-use of her name in that ‘conversation.’ Nice pace!
Thanks Abe. But seriously you’d never encountered “gunna”? Mind you I first came across it during a Dark Tower read. If I’d not seen it there then I’m not actually certain I’d have picked it up. I’m not actually sure if it appears outside the King universe. It refers to all the belongings you travel with. A backpack could be referred as being the carryall.
It never actually was intended to be a false Amanuensis either. I wrote that part thinking I’d lost his narrative voice. Half way through I paused and had the epiphany why. I actually wanted to do the same piece from the Yish perspective too, but that would have made it way too long. Still, enter the Camp NaNo project haha.
I do think I’m well overdue actually starting to write this properly too now.
All I can figure is ‘gunna’ must be from the King universe – it’s not even in my dictionary (an old and tattered thing), nor do I recall running across it in the thesaurus (which is *supposed* to be international), so I figured it was UK verbiage. Hmm, maybe it’s more obscure, like how ‘poke’ used to also mean bag or sack. Neat insight on how you discovered the false Amanuensis while writing the narrative!
I think you are correct. I picked it up from there and used it without thinking. Having looked since you mentioned it I’ve also realised it’s only referenced in The Dark Tower. Must remember in future methinks haha
You fit an impressive amount of world building into this short story. Naz moving backward through time is an intriguing element, as is the idea of chronomancy. I hope they really like each other because it sounds like they’ll be together for a long time. : )
Is this a one-off, or will it later be part of a larger story?
Very kind Cathleen. I have to own up to this being a long standing WIP concept. I’ve actually written many times bits like this in prompts. Your spot on too. Both Yish and Naz are tight friends.
In fact due to timeless procrastinating I’ve chosen this to try as the NaNo project. Ergo it’s never been intended to be a one off just in prompts. I’ve actually done around 120k now in short stories through that. My bad there….although it has given me an enjoyable time getting to play with scenes and explore the characters and world.
Hey, Gary, sometimes you just write the stories you have in you–whatever length they are. As I’ve said elsewhere, right now I gravitate to shorter works, and I’m trying to stretch because, well, I’d like to be read more. But it’s far better to write self-contained shorts than not at all. I’m coming off a long, bleak stretch. I was able to finish exactly two shorts in 2019. That was the worst. And then five shorts in 2020. (Everything else was nonfiction for my blog.) I was desperately trying to finish a seven-year editing project to publish my Snow White duology, which might be why it’s so tough to make myself write longer right now.
And your Naz story sounds like a better Nano project than the other, although again, you have to write the stories you have in you. I recently wrote a dwarf story, too–that one used fragment and was originally intended for Blog Battle, but it went too long. My dwarf, Otwin, discovered a gem that radiated pure truth. And not everyone was happy about this. It was just too much story for 2k. : )
I hear you Cathleen. I do short fiction for the fun of short stories. They also assist tightening up my writing. Others argue I’m just procrastinating and putting off writing larger books. Mostly that’s my beta readers haha.
Last year was a bust there though. I just couldn’t locate the muse. Not writers block, just more a feeling in tune with what was going on across the globe.
I’ve actually lodged this as Dragon Stone for the NaNo project too. Might be that will create the necessary push to get going again. Time will out as they say!