“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.”