History Is the Foundation of Everything In the World
“True conjuring is very difficult,” Yancy lectured. He’d been lecturing for a while. Isaac had a headache and his skin was crawling all over. He’d woken up like that, annoyed that it had taken him so long to realize he was getting sick.
Yancy continued. “When you see a mage conjuring an item from somewhere, rarely are they crafting an object out of nothing, which requires the use of Shadow—and I’m told by our researchers that Dark helps a great deal as well—and requires a good knowledge of how said object is crafted and from what. What one normally sees with conjuring is actually a very small teleportation spell that can be used to summon an existing object to the mage’s location, like so.” He manipulated Light for them, and his spectacles fell into his hand. “These were in my study on my desk, but because I knew where they were, I was able to teleport them here without too much difficulty. This is a spell you will all find very useful for those days when you arrive at class and realize you’ve forgotten your notebooks. The principle behind it is very simple…”
Yancy droned on about the principle, and Isaac tried very hard to pay attention, he did. He’d read about this a few weeks ago because he did all his reading in advance, and he’d read about it again last night to refresh himself. It didn’t seem that hard, though he hadn’t been able to make it work when he’d tried, the Pillars hurting his fingers when he touched them. Jacob had made him go to bed, and Peter was making him stay behind after his healing class to talk to Twila.
He didn’t understand why he was so tired suddenly. He’d been staying up a bit late to get work done, but not that late. He wasn’t working as much as he’d been during exams and he’d been fine then. But the Pillars were buzzing so much whenever he tried to use them that even being in the room with Yancy using them was putting his teeth on edge. Peter was making him talk to Twila because Isaac himself had been buzzing last night. Even Spencer had been able to feel it. Even Jacob had been able to feel it.
Maybe Isaac was really sick, not just tired. Hopefully Twila could help, because he wasn’t going to be able to get through the rest of the week at this rate.
“And thus,” Yancy concluded, “basic conjuring. Now that you’ve seen it, I should like you to try doing it yourselves. I’ve set up a table here with a number of small objects on it. Who would like to try first?” Yancy looked around the room. “Isaac.”
“Uh…” Isaac shook his head. “Pass? I’m sorry, I’m really not feeling well.”
Yancy looked concerned for a second. “Nonsense, Isaac. I know you can do it.”
Everyone was looking at him now. Isaac really didn’t want to. Fuck. “O-okay,” he said, standing up and taking a breath.
“I’ll do it,” Nicholas offered, looking worriedly at Isaac.
“Or me,” Bianca said. “Isaac looks sick.”
“Not to worry, you shall all get a turn,” Yancy said warmly, holding out his hands to calm them down. “Now, Isaac.”
Isaac swallowed, concentrating. On the table was a small ring with a blue stone in it, so he focused on that, holding out his hand and willing it not to shake as he pulled Light just below where it touched the Element Ronaldo had told him was Wind, twisting it so the two touched, and opening the small hole that would make the ring disappear from the table and appear in his palm.
The table and everything on it disappeared, and the Pillars vibrated around Isaac at the frequency of a scream, pain searing every part of him, and Isaac screamed with them as the room shook, the walls cracking, the chairs breaking apart, everyone falling over and trying to back away and…
Something snapped and it might have been Isaac, and Isaac was thrown back, all the way to the back of the room, stopping only because he hit the wall hard enough to take all his breath away, and fell to the ground.
The screaming had stopped.
“Fuck,” Isaac panted, holding his head, just sitting there a second. He wasn’t in any pain. “Fuck, what the hell?” People were swarming around him now, trying to help him. Someone held out a hand and Isaac took it, pulled to his feet. “Thanks,” he said, shaking himself. “S-sorry about that. I’m not sure what…”
The boy who’d helped Isaac up was about his age, wearing a beat-up metal helmet and armour over a rough-looking cotton shirt and pants, a guard between his legs and worn boots. He had small scars on his chin, his nose, above his eye, and on his hands, and had a empty sword scabbard at his belt. Isaac had never seen him before. “Who…what’s going on?”
The boy smiled. He was cute, but Isaac wasn’t about to be distracted. “Don’t worry, you’re safe.”
Peter approached them, knocking people out of the way with his cane. Yancy was behind him. “Peter,” Isaac said, reaching out to take his hand. And passing through him as Peter headed for the wall. “What…”
Isaac turned, followed Peter, who was pushing through the crowd to crouch in front of…himself. Isaac was laying there against the wall, eyes shut. Peter looked scared. Everyone looked scared. Isaac suddenly realized he couldn’t hear anyone but himself and the armoured boy. “What the fuck is going on?” he asked, backing away from both the boy and his own body as emotion overcame him. “Am…did I…”
Isaac was dead. He’d…he’d died. Oh, God. “Oh, God, oh, fuck, fuck!” Isaac squeezed his eyes shut. “What the fuck? I wasn’t…I didn’t…”
“Hey!” the boy said, hands on Isaac’s wrists. “Hey. Calm down. You’re not dead.”
“Then what the fuck is that!” Isaac asked, trying to gesture to his body, with Peter and Yancy and the others all in front of it freaking out. He couldn’t gesture, the boy’s grip was too strong. He must be an angel, or a demon.
“It’s your body, which you’re not in. I pulled you out of it for a bit,” the boy told him. “You were about to die. It was the only way to save you. But you’ll be fine. You can go back in a bit.”
“What…” Isaac tried to calm down, to breathe, then realized he wasn’t breathing and started to panic again. “What the fuck are you talking about? Who are you?”
“Please calm down. My name’s Seth,” the boy said. “I promise you’re safe, okay? You just need a little bit of time for your body to calm down and then you can go back.”
“Just…” Isaac tried to calm down, focusing on Seth’s face. “You promise?”
Seth nodded, taking Isaac’s hand. “Promise.”
“Okay.” It wasn’t okay. It wasn’t okay at all. But Isaac had nothing to cling to but that promise from someone he didn’t know. He had no choice but to trust Seth. Beside him, Yancy had stood and Isaac’s body was floating. They’d be taking him to Twila. He should have gone to her earlier. “If you’re lying I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”
“I’m not lying,” Seth said, still holding Isaac’s hand.
Isaac nodded, wanting to follow them out of the room, watching them leave with his body. “What do…what do you mean I almost died? What was wrong with me?”
“Nothing was wrong with you,” Seth told him. He had a quiet voice, a bit deeper than Isaac’s. He didn’t look like anyone Isaac had ever seen, his face shape different and his stature squatter than most people Isaac knew. “The Web was killing you.”
Seth nodded, held out a hand. The Pillars came into view, suffusing everything, so bright it almost hurt Isaac’s eyes to look at them. They weren’t vibrating angrily like they had been.
All of them, it took Isaac a second to notice, ran into Seth eventually.
“The Web,” he said. “Nobody calls it that anymore, but that’s what it is.”
“It’s all one thing,” Isaac said, stepping closer. The Pillars…the Web seemed so much more tangible here, so much more real. “The Pillars and the Elements and all the rest. It’s all one big thing.”
“Yeah. Or it used to be, anyway. We split it apart. Or rather Aaron did.”
Isaac couldn’t help but look over at Aaron, who was holding onto Andy, looking worried. Everyone was leaving. But Seth must be talking about someone else. “Who?”
“My friend. Is it okay if I show you something?”
Isaac looked at Seth. “Do I have a choice?”
“No, sorry. It’s really important.” Seth looked over to the corner of the room, and Isaac looked too.
And then they were in a different room, a glowing room with a floor in intricate patterns. “Where are we?” Distantly, Isaac thought he could hear metal clanging. A swordfight.
“In the Amaran Mountains,” Seth said. “Though the mountains aren’t here yet. This is the tower.”
“What tower…what do you meant the mountains aren’t here yet?” Seth seemed nice, but he really needed to have more respect for the fact that Isaac had no fucking idea what was happening.
“We’re in the past. The Web remembers everything. And time doesn’t work the way you think it does.” Seth smiled.
“Does anything work the way I think it does?”
“Not really. Sorry.”
Isaac sighed, which made him feel better even if no air moved through his body. “Figures. Must be a long way in the past if there are no mountains yet.” Isaac wasn’t even sure he wanted to know why there weren’t mountains yet.
Seth nodded. “Four thousand, one hundred and eighty-six years, six months, thirteen days. Not that we need to count.”
“Wh…” Isaac took a step back, from what he wasn’t sure. “What? Four thousand years?” Had the world even existed that long ago?
“Give or take a few hours, yeah. I know you don’t like violence, but you need to watch this,” Seth said, pointing at a spot on the floor just off-centre.
Isaac watched, and then yelped when two people suddenly crashed down from above, a balcony on a higher floor that he hadn’t seen. One was a tall man with long limbs and a gaunt face, black hair disheveled, silken clothes torn, black armour dented, a longsword in hand. He was bleeding a lot. The other was Seth, looking just as he did now but covered in blood and blue fire that coated his whole body, armour and all. “Who’s that you’re fighting?” Isaac asked, already nervous.
“Odrick Dekath He’Matkar,” Seth said. “The tower’s guardian. He was here to protect it from intruders. Aaron and I intruded.”
“To declare war.”
As he spoke, a bolt of white lightning struck from above and hit Odrick in the chest before he could strike at Seth, and another boy floated down, power veiling him so strongly that Isaac imagined he could feel it. The entire tower seemed to shake and vibrate and rumble and bend around him as he landed on the floor beside Seth. He was skinny, tired looking, pale, also covered in small scars and a big one on his forehead. His armour was lighter than Seth’s. “That’s Aaron?”
“Yes. The most powerful human magic-user in the history of the world,” Seth said, smiling fondly. “Though I’m biased since he was my best friend. Now watch. I skipped over the first part of the fight to get to the end.”
That made Isaac’s stomach sink. This didn’t look like the kind of fight that ended well.
“You two fools know not what you do,” Odrick said to Seth and Aaron. “This tower is a door—killing me will leave it unguarded.”
“This tower is the symbol that your people use to justify killing ours,” Aaron said calmly, holding out his hand. “And unless I’m very mistaken, it’s the source of their power. That source needs to be taken away.”
“You would destroy this world out of petty revenge,” Odrick accused, raising his sword. “I must kill you before you can…”
“Petty?” Aaron snarled, his calm suddenly cracking. “You killed millions of my people, and for what? To stop one man. And you call us petty? You creatures are the filth of the cosmos, so yes. I’d rather see the world destroyed than share it with you a moment longer.”
“Then you must die,” Odrick said, shaking his head. He pointed his sword, wreathed in yellow, at Aaron, and flew forward in a flash, faster than anything could move, faster than…
“No!” Not faster than Seth, who shoved Aaron out of the way, slamming him to the ground.
“Fuck,” Isaac said, wanting to cover his eyes. Odrick’s sword had pierced Seth through, blood dripping from Seth’s mouth. Isaac was going to be sick. Beside him, Seth didn’t seem bothered.
The Seth who was fighting smiled around the blood, raised his blade. And stabbed Odrick in the side, driving the sword into his chest. They broke apart, and Seth fell to the ground, hand falling to a pouch at his waist.
“Seth!” Aaron said, running over and crouching at his friend’s side. Isaac wanted to cry. “Seth, Seth…fuck…I’m…I’m sorry…this is my fault…”
Seth shook his head, trying to hand the pouch to Aaron and dropping it, stone falling out of it and clattering on the ground around him. “I knew…we knew this would…sorry, Aaron. I think I…love you too…”
And Seth died. Isaac felt tears on his cheeks. Aaron just sat back, looked at him for a long moment. Then he closed his eyes, mouth open in a silent scream that shook the tower, shook the air in the tower, shook the light, shook everything.
Aaron stood up, and the shaking got worse. He held out his arms and the tower started to crumble around him, the light started to grow thicker and thicker until it filled Isaac, filled his head, his eyes, his soul, everything he was and it kept growing until, until, until Isaac was going to burst, he couldn’t…
Everything flashed. Everything ripped apart.
Isaac was on his hands and knees, Seth’s hand on his back. “It’s okay,” Seth said quietly.
“Aaron destroyed the Web. Or actually, he tore it apart. Into five pieces.” Seth pointed, not at Aaron, who was just standing there, staring at nothing, but at his own body, around which all the light from the tower, dimmed now, was starting to flow. Into the stones scattered and splattered with his blood, and into him.
“The fivefold division of magic,” Isaac said quietly.
“It exists because…you died.”
Seth nodded. “Aaron’s not done. Look over there.”
The tower was gone. It was just Aaron, Seth’s body, the stones and Odrick now. And a shimmering, wavering, glittering something in the air that had Aaron’s attention now. “Wh…what’s that?” he sounded so distant, but he was frowning. “What are you doing?”
“I am…doing nothing, human,” Odrick said, gasping for air. “You’ve…you’ve destroyed the door, and the lock. Now all that was kept out…will return.”
“I didn’t…” Aaron took a step forward, towards that shimmer. Isaac felt something noxious from it, something horrible. Even in a memory, he felt something horrible.
“What is that?” Isaac asked in a hoarse whisper. This was too much. He didn’t understand.
“A portal to somewhere,” Seth said. “Somewhere evil. There’s really horrible stuff in there. Stuff that doesn’t belong in our world. You can feel it, right?”
Isaac nodded as Aaron stepped closer. “This…you were guarding this? You were…you really were protecting us. I…I didn’t know.”
“You had no cause to. They are our ancient enemies. Fear not, human. My people will,” Odrick coughed, “repel them once more.”
“No,” Aaron said, shaking his head. He looked so much older all of the sudden, and so much more tired. “No. I will.”
“You haven’t the power to…”
“Don’t tell me about my power. By the time your people realize what’s happened and try to seal this again it’ll be too late. They’re already trying to come through. This is my fault. You tried to tell me and I…”
“You must not. You don’t understand what you are sacrificing.”
Aaron turned and gave Odrick a smile. “I came here planning to die, Odrick. I’ve lost everything. Do you…understand what it means to lose everything?”
Odrick looked at the ground. Isaac couldn’t look away. “I don’t.”
Aaron nodded. “The door’s broken. You need a new one. And with the lock broken, it’s one that nobody will ever be able to force open. I don’t have anything left here anyway.” He took a step forward.
“Have you a name, human?” Odrick asked, voice…something. Awed? “You did not share it.”
Aaron shook his head. “I’m nobody important. My friend’s name was Seth from the village of Stoneolive. I’d appreciate it if you could remember him.”
Beside Isaac, Seth was crying now. Isaac had been crying for a while.
Odrick nodded gravely, coughing again. “I shall. You…are far more than I expected.”
“I know. You’ve always underestimated us.” Aaron smiled. “Give us a chance, will you?”
And he stepped into the shimmering hole, disappearing with a snap that reverberated through the world.
After he was gone, Odrick got up, staggered over to where Seth was laying on the ground, and slumped. “I shall,” he coughed. “I shall. Your people shall be the new bulwark, Seth of Stoneolive. Mine have failed. Mine have…given up that right. You are…the world…”
And Odrick Dekath He’Matkar died, falling next to the body of the boy who’d killed him.
Isaac squeezed his eyes shut. “Why did you make me watch that?”
“Because before Aaron died, he shattered the Web,” Seth said, walking over to the bodies and crouching. “Nobody’s been able to use it like we used to since then. Until you.”
Isaac swallowed, tasting bile. “It’s not about the three parts of magecraft. Being the chosen one is about the Web.”
“That’s what I think. You should recognize one of these, right?”
He was looking at the blood-spattered stones. Isaac shook his head, then stopped, looking at one. “That…that’s the stone from the Vault. The one Christopher wanted.”
Seth nodded. “I picked it up on a beach before we boarded a fleet of ships to kill everyone on an island nearby. Now it’s the anchor for the remnant of the Web you call magecraft.”
“If the stones are the anchors, then what are you?” Isaac asked. He could still see the threads of power running through Seth.
“A refugee?” Seth gave a hollow smile. “Aaron was the most powerful magic-user in history. And this place was the nexus for all magic in the world. He tore it all apart, which…I think was what he planned to do from the start, even if he never told me. He was already dying, from the same thing you were. I think he figured he could protect other people from that fate. I don’t think…I don’t think he meant to trap my soul in the Web’s remains, but he did. I was mad at him for a while, but it was an accident.” Seth sighed, stood up, and then they were back in the classroom.
“That’s so sad,” Isaac said, looking at the floor. The classroom was empty now. Sad was such a small, stupid, childish word for this.
“What happened to me is sad. What happened to Aaron is horrific. He’s trapped on the other side of that portal, holding it closed so all the monsters in the universe don’t come through. He’s still alive.”
“How do you know?” Isaac asked, not able to even comprehend that. What must it be like on the other side of that…thing? Just being near the memory of the portal had been sickening, terrifying. Being in it? For thousands of years?
“Because if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be holding it closed and the world would be ending. Isaac, I want you to rescue Aaron. Please.”
“But…” Isaac took a step away. “How? How would I even…” The enormity of that request made him shake. “And even if I did, wouldn’t that thing open again?”
“No,” Seth said, shaking his head. “Aaron was really smart. Way smarter than me. But he had five seconds to decide and he was scared and dying and grieving. I’ve had a really long time to think about this with a clear head and I know what to do. The stones can be used to hold the door shut. We can pull Aaron out, and use the Web itself in his place. That’ll block it and he’ll be free.”
“How do you know?”
“I know everything about the Web, Isaac. I’ve been living in it for forty-one hundred years. Trust me, it’ll work. You’ll help me, won’t you? You’re the only one who can.”
“Please, Isaac. I’m literally begging.” Seth sounded so small, so young. “I can’t bear it, knowing that Aaron is trapped like that. I can’t do it anymore. Knowing I had a chance at getting him out is the only way I’ve stayed sane.”
Seth looked like he might cry. “Hey,” Isaac said, taking Seth’s hand. “What do I need to do?”
“You need the stones. You need to bind them to yourself. You can remake the Web that way. And then we can use the Web to unlock the door—Aaron. And then once we’ve got him, we make a new door out of the stones.”
“You make that sound very easy.”
“It’s not,” Seth assured him. “But I know how to do it. I’ll show you. And once Aaron is free, he’ll help. And doing this, it’ll get rid of the Web forever. So nobody else will have to die from touching it.”
“Is…that what I was dying from?” Isaac was smart enough to realize what Seth was really saying. A world without magic.
“Yes. I think it was one of the reasons Aaron neutered the Web—so it was safer to use. Two out of three people who used it back in my day died by the time they were your age.” Seth shut his eyes. “We needed magic, back then, to fight the gods. Odrick’s people. But we don’t need it anymore. They won the war after we died. We don’t need it anymore. Or we won’t once that door is shut for good. That’s…I think that’s what the chosen one is really here for, Isaac. To be the end of magic.”
“Fuck,” Isaac sat down in one of the chairs, though he supposed he was actually just pretending to sit down. “That’s…this is a lot, Seth. This is a lot to take in at once.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Seth sat beside him. “But you were dying. And there was no way for me to talk to you without it being a lot at once.”
Dying. Fuck. “I’m…going to be okay, right?”
“Yeah. You don’t touch the Web with your body, you touch it with your soul. But it’s your body that suffers. You just need your body to recover for a little bit without your soul getting in the way.”
“A few days, maybe a week,” Seth said. “That’s my guess.”
“I have to be a ghost for a week.”
Isaac fake-sighed, wishing he could breathe. He missed breathing. “I mean, it’s better than being dead. Everyone’s going to be so worried.”
“A lot of people love you, you know that?” Seth asked. “I hope you know that.”
“I know,” Isaac said, smiling. “So do you just watch? Everything?”
Seth chuckled. “I can’t be everywhere at once. But I’ve been keeping an eye on you.”
“Sorry. You must have been so annoyed the millionth time you had to watch me suck a dick.”
“Not what I was expecting in the chosen one,” Seth admitted. “But you seem good at it. And you make people happy. I think the world is lucky to have you, Isaac.”
“Maybe we have that in common.” Isaac wondered if Seth’s plan would free him as well.
Seth shook his head sadly. “I’m nobody important.”
“That’s what Aaron said too.”
“You…fuck, you’re going to make me cry. First person I talk to in millennia and I look like a total idiot.” Seth wiped at his eyes. “Look. I have more stuff I need to tell you, and it’s also really important. But I know this is already a lot to think about. So instead can we be all serious later and I’ll show you cool stuff now?”
“What kind of cool stuff?” Isaac asked, wary.
Seth smiled, and then they were sitting on a rocky surface, surrounded by stars. “What…” Isaac stood up, looking around. He’d never seen stars so bright and he looked up. “What is this?” The horizon went on forever, until he turned and saw a big blue ball in the sky, swirled with white. “Where are we?”
“The moon. Your friend Jacob’s going to be jealous.”
“The…” Isaac gaped. “We’re on the moon?”
“We can go anywhere the Web is as long as we’re part of it. And the Web is everywhere.” Seth looked content suddenly. “Want to see the bottom of the ocean next? There are mermaids and really weird fish.”
“I…okay?” Isaac was so overwhelmed he couldn’t do anything but agree. He thought he’d gotten used to the world changing every time he’d turned around.
One thing, probably the only thing, that was clear to Isaac now was that he had to stop underestimating the world. It was always more than he expected.
4 thoughts on “Chosen One, 69”
…I’m getting the impression that Seth’s plan is going to go horribly wrong at some point. He’s entirely too confident that he knows what he’s doing for him to ACTUALLY know what he’s doing.
Although that may be wishful thinking on my part. Because if Seth’s plan is fatally flawed, the heroes will have to find another option. Preferably one that doesn’t end in magic going away, because I really hate when fantasy stories do that.
I mean, when does anything in a narrative ever go exactly as anyone plans? I wouldn’t worry too much about everything going right…firstly because that assumes he’s even right about what will happen if they manage to open the gate again.
The magic going away is definitely an option, but don’t worry too much about it. It’s not something I’m super fond of in fantasy either. 🙂
It just figures that something massively important would happen in Isaac’s story in Chapter 69.
Of course! XD It was a logical thing to do, I thought!