Something about my encounter yesterday had done something to my sense. I awoke groggily, my dreams filled with visions of old parts of the town. Horrible things had happened. Doors shattered with magic. Sinister men with glowing eyes were burning and drowning poor knacks. Children taken forcibly from screaming parents. A few families even fought back their links broken wide open, much like the fire surge from my own experiences. I dragged myself over to my basin, drawing the water to wash my face, the idle thought that it would wash these visions from my mind. The glimmer of enchantment was everywhere. I was being bombarded with concepts that I barely understood. Definitely time for a wash. I scrubbed the cool water roughly into my face half drowning myself as it went up my nose. The snorting and gasping seemed to have closed my senses at least, although it hadn’t done much for my own well being. Spluttering was not a good start to anyones day.
“Orb, can you hear me?” I called into the emptiness of my apartment.
“Yes Tristan, do you need anything?” its voice came from my amulet.
“What is going on with me?” I asked hopefully. Maybe Orb would have the answers.
“Can you clarify please? Whilst I can access all information related to you that has been collected, I somehow doubt you want everything,” its voice came again. Personality seemed to be seeping back in to it.
“The visions. And what’s happening with my senses?” I replied. The thought of having every iota of data recited to me made me think a concise simple question would be the best bet.
“ Your amulet reported an opening of your senses and the visions are likely related to that. The attempted influence of your mind yesterday evening is the most likely cause,” Orb stated mechanically.
So it was the gods fault. That’s like blaming it on nobody, I thought.
“And the content of the visions? Are they real?” I pressed on.
“Tristan, while the data we collect is invasive. We can read your body, mood and your magic, We do not read your thoughts. I have no idea about your visions content, but based on what your magic has been doing all night. You may have been reading imprints.”
“Imprints?” I queried, I had a sinking feeling that Orb confirmed a moment later.
“Imprints are the magical residue left by events, strong magic use and high emotion often leave marks on an area. It may be a single stone or a whole forest,” Orb explained.
“Like ghosts?” I asked
“Very much like ghosts, if I understand your connection correctly. These marks can haunt an area forcing certain feelings on those in proximity,”
“If it’s limited by proximity, why am I feeling it now?” I asked confused.
“If the data I have is accurate then you are not limited by area, reading is an oddity. It doesn’t show up often, but its almost useless. Your senses are clearly, very sharp, you have been reading the whole area not the tiny part in proximity,”Orb replied.
“So this means the visions are likely real, but past?” I said half statement, half question.
“That is what I have just said,” Orb said a glimmer of heat in the protest. “So now that the situation is resolved, enjoy your day off,” the connection went dead.
A day off was a rare and supposedly wondrous thing. I on the other hand hated them. A great many years in the academy, waiting for my results or not knowing if I was going to have class that day, had left me with major issues about free time. A large block of time with nothing planned out is terrifying for me. The thought of going back to bed was briefly entertained before being dismissed. I just couldn’t do it. I hadn’t long been off medical leave. Boredom is my constant enemy. I had worked through so many of my books. Shaking myself slightly to get out of my head.
I wandered over to my wardrobe. The recessed door was set deeply into my wall opposite my bed. Hardly noticeable and a very handy space saver. A small light globe set above the rail showed of my meagre selection of non-uniform clothes they consisted of a single blue cotton top with a wide neck and a thick wool jumper. A single shelf holding a pair of heavy cloth trousers. I made my choice, the shirt and the trousers.
Taking them over to the bed, I sat on the edge to pull on my trousers and then stood to do the small wooden buttons up. I grabbed the shirt and dragged it roughly down over my head. Did my best to pull my long hair out-of-the-way and tie it back with a simple binding charm. Earth-based. It was still easiest for me. A quick look in at my reflection in the window showed I was ready to go.
Out on the streets, the remnants of my visions tattered away. The bright sun shone down on the smooth, clean paving. Reflecting of the windows of the buildings, so different to the muddy tracks I had seen. I adopted what I hoped was a carefree expression that I carefully plastered on my face, I tried to enjoy my day off. Seeing the streets sparsely populated was nice after the busyness of the last few days. I blindly chose a route, no goal or place in mind. My pace was relaxed as I wandered freely through the central square. The mage headquarters was to my left. A glance showed me the doors were wide open again, the temptation to go in and hopefully be assigned a task came and went. I’d had a rough start as a mage. I doubted Jase would let me have a task yet. A flicker of movement caught my eye as I turned my head away from the headquarters. It was a canopy above one of the many stalls, blowing in the warm gentle breeze. a bright red wave of cloth. I had never noticed a red one before.
“Come take a look,” came a call from under the canopy. A female voice.
Turning my body towards the voice, I slowly walked towards it. The stall was wooden. Much like most of them. A view back in time to market day, almost. A flash of a vision staggered me.
The old square, cobbles and mud. The fountain wasn’t there. A large wooden post stood in its place, surrounded by dilapidated market stalls. A small number of people of various ages universally dressed in threadbare, tattered clothes, milling around buying and selling the vegetables and produce available. A feeling of despair hung in the air. Almost palpable. A squad of mages came into the square dragging a couple. A man and woman. they marched right through the hopeless crowd. To the wooden post. One of them turned to face the square while the others were binding the couple to the post. He was in his late thirties, slim, deep-set glowing eyes. a thin-lipped grimace on his face as he planted his feet and looked over the square.
“People of West Haven, we representatives of the Solem family, have found these two to be guilty of disobeying a lawful order of conscription. Hiding the property of the Solem family and actively working against the rule of our rightful lords. The sentence is public execution. They will be burnt at the stake until dead for their crimes. You here are called to witness that justice is done,” he called to the crowd. He raised his arms dramatically, flames rose up in barriers across the square blocking the exits.
The destitute people just stood there, not a mummer of resistance or surprise could be heard. They just looked resigned.
With a look back to the accused he asked “Do you have anything to say in your defence?”
The woman spat towards the accuser, but remained silent. Anger and defiance etched into her features.
The imprisoned man reached out his hand to the woman, grasped it then just bowed his head, a tear could be seen trailing down his face.
Her anger melted away at the touch of his hand. A glimmer of a smile hovered around her mouth as she looked at the man.
“No? Your silence will be taken as an admission of guilt. The sentence shall be passed,” the accuser stated firmly, disgust evident in his tone. The mage turned to his three squad members and nodded, all four raised their hands in unison.
A dim yellow glow emanated from the stake. Flickers of light started streaking from the point to the clouds above. Rumbles of thunder and bolts of lightning shot across the sky. Blasts of wind blew straight down from the sky, pushing many of the crowd to their knees. The glow intensified shifting to a bright blue. The heavens opened, rain pouring down on the square, soaking the dejected knacks but not touching the flame barriers or the mages. The stake flared once more, a blazing red. A fountain of fire poured from the tip of the stake. Bathing the poor couple in flames. The sound of steam hissing muffled their screams as their flesh soon blackened and split. The stench of burning hair and meat filled the air. A few in the square were sick, noisily vomiting where they knelt and still the fire fell on the pair. Heat drying the eyes of those crying at the sight.
The mages stood impassively, grim statues with bright eyes. Watching the horror that they had brought about, as one they lowered their arms The wind and rain stopped. The growling storm silenced. The flames ceased. The barriers vanished. Not a sound could be heard.
The accusing mage turned once more to the people. “Justice has been served, remember this day,” he said softly, his voice wavering slightly, with a nod of his head his squad formed up behind him and they marched back the way they had come. The only sign they had been there, were the few blackened bones that were swiftly crumbling to ashes.
My vision faded back to the here and now.
After seeing that I had no further wish to explore the town. I felt ill and out of sorts. I couldn’t blame myself though, most would be out of sorts after seeing that I just wanted to go home and find a way to block out these visions. Tears streamed down my face. My stomach was churning with the desire to vomit but I choked it down. The woman that had called me over rushed to my side.
“Are you ok?” she asked as she placed a hand on my arm, steadying me.
“I will be, thank you for your concern,” I replied shaking off the touch. I didn’t know what was setting off these visions but I didn’t want to risk another.
“Well, excuse me then I have work to do,” she said coldly.
I must have offended her. I pulled myself together, putting the woman out of my mind. I took the quickest way back to my apartment I could. The shining streets felt like they were mocking my mood. I was keeping my eyes open for people, I didn’t want to bump into anyone. My senses had gotten sensitive again, flashes of enchantment were everywhere. The streets positively shone with the signatures of its shapers. The street lights, lit with both their shaping marks and the simple enchantment for light that they held. They carried what looked like threads of twisted air, tied the lights one to the next, to the next. The temptation to follow the threads was gaining traction in my mind. My will was stronger though. My apartment was, but a few steps away. I forced my body to carry me the final stretch. Once inside the temptation past. I could still sense the threads, but I wasn’t as consumed with the thought of them. Striding to my water basin, a rush of my magic flowing ahead of me. Water flowed from the pipes. A near desperation filled me as I placed my hands on the sides of the basin. I lowered my face into the water, my senses instantly cut off. I pulled out, dragging the wet strands of hair from my face. Water seemed to help, I wasn’t in the mood to figure out why.
“Orb!” I shouted out, rivulets of water flowing into my mouth. I spat to clear the water.
“Tristan, what’s wrong?” came it’s voice from my amulet again.
“How do I stop these visions?” I pleaded for answers. I must have looked a wreck.
“Tristan, I am a construct. I don’t have the same facility with magic as you,” it warned before continuing “I can assist in a purely hypothetical way, for instance, basic wardings may help, but from my records I can advise that magic isn’t the answer.”
I was pacing around my apartment in sheer frustration, clenching my fists and intermittently growling through Orb talking. focusing my attention on the sound of his voice was helping, but the fact that I was hearing it through a magical item was distracting.
“If magic isn’t the answer, what is Orb? This sensitivity has made me useless. I can’t do my job if I’m seeing ghosts and visions,” my frustration was boiling over
“Tristan please understand, I don’t know the answers I only have my records. Reading is a rare and complex area of study, few mages develop it. It’s an almost exclusively wizard skill. I can and will help you as much as I can.
“Wizards.” I said flatly before an idea took shape in my mind. “Would the wizards know how to help me?” I mused aloud.
“More than likely. I can request aid from them, but I have no idea how long it would take. They are in conclave with the seniors. I would like to avoid disturbing them,” Orb murmured
“Fine, no wizards yet, but if this lasts too long I will order you to get help,” I conceded. I even wagged my finger at it despite the fact it wasn’t in the room and couldn’t see.
“Tristan the way I see it, the best way to help you is to master your senses. You have to learn to control it,” Orb advised me.
“How the stars, do I do that?” I asked. I stopped my pacing whilst trying to work out ways to gain control of my senses.
“Practice, is the best way I’m just a call away if you need help,” the connection ended with those final words.
“Practice, practice. Well that really clears things up thanks so much for that useful advice” I said to myself as I thought through what Orb had said. Nothing for it, but to try.
I walked over to my chair, sat down. I closed my eyes, took a few breaths before opening my senses as far as I could.
The bombardment almost knocked me unconscious, as my mind tried to understand everything that was within range. I held on, this reminded me of my first awakening when my magical senses first opened. The vast amount of information available was overwhelming. I struggled to let it go. I didn’t need to understand it all. I just needed to control it.
A few more deep breaths and some muttered comments about useless constructs, while I shifted position in my chair. My hands clenched into fists as I fought for control of my own senses.
It’s not a battle, was the thought that suddenly bloomed in my mind.
That thought forced me to relax, my senses seemed to be calming. Trying to focus on my immediate surroundings I could feel my amulet and my wild shield. The feel of them was radically different,but I could tell more about them. The amulet was a warren of tightly bound strands and nodes. The shield bracer was something altogether different, the base disc was void of anything but hidden deep within it was a tightly imprinted form, surrounded by almost ghostly lines and nodes, one of which thickened as it led away. I gasped as I realised where the thread went. It went straight into my core weaving into a knot with my link. I hadn’t expected to see that.
Just that tiny revelation had given me a grasp on my expanded senses. I could use them the same as my old ones. I could ignore them too. The ability to ignore things has to be one of the most useful traits of being human even if it gets us into more trouble than not most of the time. The fear of my senses had receded slightly, although I was still dreading more visions. I got up. I was seeing the glimmers of enchantment everywhere, the play of the magical energies infused through all things. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. the lack of any human element there shows how truly insignificant we are. A slight effort of will enabled me to function on my normal level. The addition sense was still there but easily ignored, I just had to get used to the constant effort it took.
A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth, I walked over to my large window looking at my town, for one of the first times I felt connected to this town, invested. I had lived here for years as a child, for all my life if you counted my time in the academy, which I didn’t really. The academy could have been in the middle of nowhere for all I had known.My recent struggles on behalf of the people of Westhaven had given me a new appreciation of the work we mages did, at least in the new age.
My smile died on my lips, at the recollection of the vision. The execution. The sight of the people had struck me almost as much as the actual execution. Seeing them so downtrodden and defeated. That many dreamers could have fought of the mages easily if they had worked together. Power levels are fairly nonsensical. The variations are minimal between knack and mage. It’s in versatility and control that we can over power dreamers even daydreamers. The thought of fighting back just hadn’t occurred to them. How much ingrained conditioning that would take boggled my mind.
My practicing with my expanded senses had taken me a lot longer than I had originally thought. The sun was slowly setting. I cleared my mind and focused on the beauty of a thing I took for granted.
The sun slowly sunk turning the sky into a tapestry of reds and oranges touches of blue could still be seen. My intense focus on absorbing the moment let my senses slip slightly.
The sun was wreathed in magical energies, streamers ebbed and flowed across the sky. Faint glimmers blues and yellows could be seen floating slowly, quick moving darts of greens in all shades flashed past. Flocks of birds.
Maybe this ability wasn’t so much a curse as a gift. Clearly a double-edged sword, but being able to see the added beauty of that moment is something I would treasure for years to come.
I stood watching the last flickers of sunlight fade. Satisfaction and hope for the future warred with the despair and grief for the past, much like the light and dark of the sun setting.
My own mind was settled for now at least, so much for my day off. A chuckle escapes my lips as a thought crossed my mind.
Boredom isn’t the enemy anymore.