Standing in the centre of the Nelar Mage headquarters alone was a strange experience. The men had cleared out on my orders and I was seated, legs dangling, on the desk in the main hall’s reception. I still could never work out what to call this part of the building. But it wasn’t important right now.
In my hand was the Orb seed, its glassy structure bending the light in the room in very strange ways. It sent shapes and colours onto the walls that weren’t found anywhere in the room naturally.
The doors were barred and a couple of my mages were outside keeping all away.
This had the potential to go so very wrong. Most mage magic was just expressions of will using concepts as a sort of lever against something that was so vast it was beyond the mortal mind to comprehend. As you advance, you get taught lots of little ways to compartmentalise thoughts feelings ideas. But this thing in my hand was beyond all that.
It was a spell that covered so many parts of magic, so many concepts. It touched so much that it was more than many could handle. It could interact and change, grow and develop.
The Westhaven Orb was a golem in only the most superficial sense. In some ways close to what Airis could be, in others nowhere near.
Orbs could know anything with in their range, as they grow and get more complicated they get more powerful, more able to use that information.
They are normally one of the final things set up after the basics, so that they can give the senior, at his request, anything about the health of its area.
But in a city this large that had been without magic for so long, I feared what an orb could do. It could interact with the unnatural creatures, maybe some of the older, more primal magics that seeped into everything, that were everything. In tamed towns and cities, mages and knacks worked constantly building on what was there, cultivating, nurturing. It made them safer.
There was none of that here.
All this went round and round in my mind as I watched the light dance over the walls.
Sitting here alone watching the light show reminded me sharply of Sophia and Lyphia, the show we had seen and the players that I had promised patronage if they helped train my apprentice: The promise that I’d been unable to keep as I had been exiled from Westhaven, another responsibility to live up to.
And just like that, I made up my mind.
The desk I was sat on was solid oak. The whole thing was made from a single tree, the top was a slice clean through the trunk as if the tree was planted here, then cut and in many ways, it was. It was reshaped by magic, made for this very purpose, roots of wood spread throughout the floors and walls of this building. That was something I had figured out from my intense although brief study of the orb seed. The very enchantments that had been used here were standard for all headquarters for this very reason. Not exactly, secret knowledge but their other use was less well known. They meshed with an orb.
I stood, planting my feet on the smooth stone floor and then I laid the glass ball on the desk, in the centre of the rings, the very core of the once tree.
My hand brushed over the seed as I opened my link wide and plunged into the torrent of sigils that made up the construction of spell.
Vast emptiness greeted me.
I stood, my mind stood, in the void. My senses alert to anything as magic poured out of my body into the seed. I could feel it but I was removed, somewhere else. One by one stars appeared in the void with me, each with its own voice, calling out and filling the space with sound. Pure notes touched by emotion, ideas given form. They gradually illuminated the void; there was nothing to see except them, each trying to draw my attention. Soon there were thousands. They danced and swam all around me.
I reached my mind’s hand out to touch the nearest, complex ideas and diagrams, shapes. Few words were conveyed although solid meaning lodged in my head: An anchor. As I held it part of the material world slid into focus, the room around me this single star was the core all the other built upon, it went into the desk, the core of the tree, linking it to place, location.
The glass ball under my body’s hand sunk into the desk, the rings opening to accept it. Its progress was slow but fluid through the grain of the wood, living wood that grew, its roots spreading, pulling nutrients and giving influence, reach.
The next star to come to me was just as complex, its ideas, the foundation of body. Building on the anchor it gave the Orb a form, The same form as the one in Westhaven but younger, more fluid. It was a ball of light and air, joining the ideas of knowledge and intellect. On to the anchor sigil it went, growing link by link, they interwove tying one to the other.
The next was harder; it was almost pure knowledge, a skill set, but adaptive. A flexible shifting thing that defied any solid grasp, into the body it went, all building into something.
Time had very little meaning here, I had no idea how long I had been building the orb, its network. The last few remained, and I was tired. The wonder of creating something so… magical was draining out of me and exhaustion took its place.
Each star took power from me and through me, pulling on me as like a child demanding constant care and attention. A couple of times I had felt myself slip, and the links woven between stars had shifted fraying. Despite being nearly finished I couldn’t rest or let up or all my work would be undone and the power I had spent would need to go somewhere.
The final stars slowly, so slowly slid into place, I didn’t even look where they needed to go I just placed them where they told me. Their purpose clear to me now in this state of numb receptivity.
The last locked in and the void shattered, I fell back into myself.
I staggered on my feet, my legs long since dead, most of a day spent on my feet, unmoving, will do that to you.
Stretching them out brought pain and tingling heat shooting through the numbness that pervaded my body. Sweat, thick and oily sheathed my body, its cold slickness soaked into my clothes. A twitch in my hand brought my attention to the now sunken bead of glass that it rested on. I pulled it back and massaged blood back into it.
“You are Mage Representative Tristan Sodden,” a voice called into the empty hall.
My mind was too numb to make sense of anything right now, but the voice was clear and familiar.
“Orb, I did my task well then, if you are awake.”
“You did, Mage. I’m aware and alert. Not yet fully capable but that will come in time. Who is to be commander here?”
A small ball of light floated out of the sunken bead, its form almost identical to my Orb back home except much smaller, maybe half the size and its colour was closer to green than blue.
“Oh, there had been a question, hadn’t there?”
“That hasn’t been decided just yet. I will need to speak to my second and to Master Jase before such a decision can be made.”
“How come you talk like this? The Westhaven orb has a personality.”
“My limitations are in place until such a time as I have a master.”
“Well that makes sense. I will get on that as soon as I can. Now if you will excuse me for a moment I need to open the doors and let my men in, it’s been a long day already and I expect they will want to rest.”
At my words, the doors swung open, the enchantments unlocking them. I turned to look between the doors and orb.
“You did that?”
“You wished it. Until such a time as I have a master, I’m to obey all lawful commands from a mage. You are in the command structure.”
“Thank you, although could you not do that until give clear commands please. It could be dangerous.”
“Will you be alright by yourself for a few moments while I summon the men?”
“I will but I can call the men here, there are seven pendants in my range, although one is inactive and you are without one.”
“Oh. Do you mind if I sit? It’s been rather exhausting.”
“Sit Tristan Sodden, Mage Representative. I have knowledge of the process until such a time as I have a master. It must have been a drain on you.”
“It was. Thank you.” I stepped slowly around the desk, my legs still not happy with me for their abuse, to the chair and sat.
“The summons has gone out. They will be here soon.”
As I sat gazing at this baby orb, a slow and sluggish thought started to take shape.
“Can you scry?”
“Not as you imagine, but I can look upon remote locations and people. Depending on many factors.”
“You can use magic even though you are made of magic.” The statement fell from my lips without thought.
“We are not so different mage, as I was created, you were created in turn. Your bodies are shapes containing minds capable of thought and feeling, although my feelings are muted until I have a master, and magic. My body is made of light and air, yours earth and water, in the main, air for breath and fire for heat. Not so different really mage.”
“No not so different at all. I never thought we were really. I just wondered if you can scry can you let me look upon my apprentice.”
“I can but it will use up energy that I will need to continue the process you started. Already the roots quest out; enchantments to detect various things are being put in place. Once that is complete I will be fully capable of fulfilling your request.”
“I can wait; I don’t want to damage you.”
“The men have return Tristan.”
“Thank you.” I stood and walked around the room, waiting for the promised men to arrive.
Telsan was the first through the door followed by the other in a staggered procession; they all carried small glyph-screens and looked distracted.
Telsan looked from me to the newborn orb. “You did it then after you sent us away I wasn’t sure you would survive.”
“I survived,” I smiled tiredly. “It was hard work but I think my part of it is done now.”
“It is Tristan until a decision on my master is made I will draw my power through the roots. A mage’s energy is easier but I need the bond to make it work.”
“You aren’t like the Westhaven orb at all are you?”
“In fact I’m almost identical, that orb has been restricted by its master. I have connections forming that link me to all Orbs, we are all linked together, and soon I will be able to actively use that connection to communicate.”
“How soon?” Lysar said. He had stood next to the desk, and I hadn’t even noticed
“At this rate a turning of the earth.”
I looked over to Telsan a wild grin stretching my face.
All the men smiled back, being cut off from home was the worst nightmare of many of these men, which was over, almost.
“Good, I’m beat. I need to rest. Is there anything I need to know before I go to sleep?”
“It’s only early evening. The sun it’s even down yet, although it’s not far off,” Lysar said.
“I’ve channelled a lot of magic today. I’m done.”
“Get some rest, we can handle this. Now that we have an orb, we can get all this set up easily enough. It will take time but it’s not hard.”
“Okay, wake me if I’m needed.”
Telsan waved me off, not even bothering to comment.
I headed off to the stairs, my legs still not overly happy with me but only mildly complaining.
My room was empty, just a bed and a basin but that was all I needed right now. I stripped off my clothes my sword and scabbard then ran the water, it was cold, so just a quick wash to take the grimy oily residue off.
I grabbed the strap on my harness and pulled it with me over to my bed, I didn’t want it far from me, just in case. Laying down and staring at the celling didn’t work well for sleep but closing my eyes and focusing inwards, turning my thoughts to the concepts that I had learnt back when I was first at the academy did. The gentle reminders of home and how soon I could be there calmed me enough to rest.
I was borne away to the land of dreams, my head filled with peaceful visions of home.