Magic Battles: The Dark and Forbidding Land

The Dark and Forbidding Land (New Cover)Noticing that Finkler’s Bakery was open, Senta started across the square toward it. She wasn’t hungry, having just finished tea, but was interested to see what service at Port Dechantagne’s first eating establishment looked like. Halfway there she suddenly stumbled, sprawling across the gravel, wet and muddy with melted snow and scratchy with rock salt and jagged pebbles. Looking toward her feet, she spied a large rock that had obviously been the cause of her tumble. But how could she have missed it? Looking toward the pfennig store, she saw Streck laughing heartily. Jumping to her feet, she aimed a spell at him.

“Uuthanum,” she said, and six or seven gallons of water appeared in the air above the Freedonian’s head, dousing him.

Senta could see him mouthing the magic word even though she couldn’t hear it. Her feet flew out from beneath her, plopping her onto her bottom in the wet gravel. She fired right back, causing the pfennig store door to fly open, smacking Streck in the back of the head. With a shout in Freedonian that was no doubt profane, he made half a dozen determined strides toward her before remembering himself and coming to a stop in the middle of the square.

“Why don’t you shoot a lightning bolt?” he called to her. “Or perhaps a fireball?”

“I don’t want to burn down Mr. Parnorsham’s store.”

He sneered, then raised both hands toward her and said. “Talik Uuthanum.”

It was the first magic above the most basic cantrip that Senta had seen him do, and because the spell was an unfamiliar one, she didn’t know what to expect.

“Prestus Uuthanum,” she said, throwing a shield up around herself. She felt the magic bounce off and she saw Streck’s eyes widen. She mentally flipped through the spells with which she could counter-attack, but she didn’t use any of them. She waited to see what he would do. He stared at her for a moment, and then turning on his heel, he strode swiftly from the Town Square.

“Too right,” she called after him. “And don’t come back.”

Brushing off her coat, Senta turned to see about twenty people watching her from in front of the bakery. Their expressions were not difficult to read. There was concern, curiosity, and yes there was definitely fear. Some turned and went about their business, but most continued to watch her as she slowly crossed the square toward them.

“How’s the food?” she asked, when she was just a few steps away.

“It is of course, excellent,” said Aalwijn Finkler, stepping forward from the back of the group. “Would you like me to wrap up a couple of sandwiches and some soup for you to take home for dinner?”

“Um, I don’t have any money.”

“I will be happy to extend you credit.”

“Alright then.”

Senta waited outside the bakery, half watching to see if Streck would return. By the time Aalwijn came out with a small box loaded with wrapped packages of food, most of the gawkers were gone.

“I added a nice large piece of strudel—my gift for anyone who fights the Reine Zauberei.”

“So you know about them, eh?”

“There has been much talk of them and of him, among the Zaeri colonists.”

“Well, don’t get your corset in a twist. He’s just a wanker.”

Magic Battles: The Voyage of the Minotaur

Voyage of the Minotaur (New Cover)“Hello beautiful ladies,” said an accented voice from the east side of the stream.

Senta and Zurfina both looked up to see Suvir Kesi standing beneath a large pine. He wore his usual bright blue clothes and yellow fez with a blue tassel on top. He held his right hand straight out and dangled an 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet of paper.

“Uuthanum,” he said, and the paper burst in flame from the bottom, burning upwards as if it had been soaked in lamp oil.

“What the hell was that supposed to be?” asked the sorceress.

“A bit of mathematics,” Kesi giggled. “A result of the mechanism, you might say.”

“Silly thing to die over,” said Zurfina, “Uuthanum.”

She pointed to him with her right index finger, but nothing happened.

“Uuthanum uluchaiia uluthiuth!” shouted Kesi, raising both hands, and pressing them together, palms up.

A sphere of flame formed as he pulled his palms apart. Only two inches across, it surged and swirled there for a second, then shot toward the sorceress. In the thirty feet or so between the two of them, the ball of flame grew until when it hit Zurfina, it was six feet across. It exploded into a huge flash, knocking Senta away and into the water. When she looked back, she saw Zurfina completely on fire, her clothing and even her hair in flames. She too fell into the water, in a cloud of steam and smoke. Kesi let out another shrill laugh.

Senta couldn’t believe it, but Zurfina climbed back to her feet. Most of the black leather pants and leather corset she was wearing were gone, as was most of her blond hair. Her skin was scorched and when she moved, it cracked hideously. She pointed her finger again at Kesi.

“Uuthanum uastus corakathum paj,” she hissed. Again nothing happened.

“Bechnoth uuthanum pestor paj,” said Kesi, stretching out his hand.

A cone of cold, like the simple spell that Senta had learned her first day with Zurfina, but much larger and more powerful sprang from the wizard’s hand. The frosty air cut through the space between the two spellcasters, centering on Zurfina. In seconds, frost formed to cover her entire body, even freezing the stream for ten feet or more around her.

Senta let out a shriek and ran for the protection of the nearest tree on the opposite side of the river from where Kesi stood. She ducked behind a redwood three feet in diameter and dropped to her knees.

“Don’t go far!” called Kesi. “I have something I need to show you!”

It wasn’t the wizard, but a crashing sound that made Senta look around the tree. Just as she had suspected, Zurfina had broken out of the icy prison, melting the frost on her body and the ice in the stream. Senta had always thought that Zurfina could not be harmed by magic, but now the sorceress looked very unsteady. She reached up and snatched something out of the air near her face and threw the invisible object at Suvir Kesi. Whatever it was must have hit near him, because from out of the ground around his feet sprang a dozen black tentacles, each more than ten feet long. They immediately began grappling with the man. Zurfina dropped backwards into a sitting position in the chilly water.

Senta watched as Kesi pulled out a large curved dagger and began to hack at the tentacles, which wrapped themselves around his legs, arms, and neck. There was a real look of panic in his face, but after a moment, he began cutting more of the slippery black tentacles than grew to replace the ones lost. A look of triumph came over him and he slashed with renewed vigor until the last of the squiggly conjurations were gone. Throughout it all, Zurfina sat unmoving, the six-inch deep water flowing around her.

“Nothing to say?” asked Kesi, looking down at the sorceress. “Power all gone? I don’t think so. You still look a little feisty to me.”

“Uuthanum rechthinov uluchaiia,” he said.

Even as he did so, the sorceress grabbed another of the glamours floating around her head and threw it. It looked as though it took all her energy to do so. A bolt of lightning shot from Kesi’s hand directly at her. But a misty form, shaped like the spectral hand of some ghostly giant appeared out of nowhere, palm raised up like that of a police constable directing traffic, and the lightning bolt ricocheted away at a sharp angle.

“That was it, wasn’t it?” said the wizard. “Now you’re done. Thank goodness for that mechanical contraption. Without it, I never would have been able to formulate a spell powerful enough to counter magic that, well let’s be honest, is normally greater than mine by a factor of four.”

Magic Battles: Brechalon

Brechalon (New Cover)Zurfina had her ticket on the B511 out of Brech to Flander on the southern coast, where she had already arranged to meet a boat that would take her to a ship bound for Mirsanna. There was no way that she could stay in Brechalon any longer. The government had refused to accept her independence. They would have her join the military or they would see her destroyed. They had already sent a dozen wizards and two sorcerers against her. But Zurfina was the greatest practitioner of sorcery in the Kingdom and was more than a match for any wizard.

A man in a brown suit stepped out from behind a pillar. To the other people in the station, he seemed nothing out of the ordinary, but to Zurfina he glowed bright yellow and was surrounded by a sparkling halo. She didn’t wait for him to cast a spell. She pointed her hand toward him and spat out an incantation.

“Intior uuthanum err.”

Immediately the man doubled over, wracked with uncontrollable cackling laughter. But before Zurfina could smile appreciatively, she was thrown from her feet as the world around her exploded in flames. She had been hit in the back by a fireball, and only the fact that she had previously shielded herself prevented her from becoming a human candle, as four or five innocent bystanders around her now did. Rolling to her feet and turning around, she found that she faced not one, but four wizards. The one who had evidently cast the fireball was preparing another spell, while the other three were casting their own. Her shield protected her from the lightning bolt, and the attempt to charm her, but one of the four magic missiles hit her, burning her shoulder as though it had been dipped in lava.

“Uuthanum uastus corakathum paj—Prestus Uuthanum.” Zurfina ducked into a side alcove as one of the wizards turned to stone and her own shield was replenished. Several more magical bolts struck the stone wall across from her, creating small burnt holes. Peering quickly around the corner, she saw the four wizards just where she left them, the three trying to use their petrified comrade as cover. Looking in the other direction, she saw that the wizard cursed with laughter had recovered and he had been joined by two more.

Seven wizards—well, six. That was a lot of magical firepower. But then Zurfina looked across the station platform. Directly opposite her was the open door of a train; not the B511, but a train bound for somewhere else. If she could reach it, she could get away. She glanced quickly around the corner again. The smell of burnt bodies mixed with thick black smoke in the air, but though there was plenty of the former, there was not enough of the latter for Zurfina’s taste.

“Uuthanum,” she said, and a thick fog began to fill the station platform.

“Maiius uuthanum nejor paj.” The three wizards to her right suddenly faced a dog the size of a draft horse, snarling and foaming at the mouth, and they felt their spells were better aimed at it than any blond sorceress.

Turning to her left, Zurfina cast another spell. “Uuthanum uastus carakathum nit.”

The cement that formed the other end of the platform turned to mud. The petrified wizard, deprived of his secure foundation toppled over onto one of his comrades, crushing him, while the other two struggled to pull themselves from the muck. Zurfina shot out of the alcove and ran toward the train. She had almost made it, when Wizard Bassington stepped into the open doorway in front of her.

She stopped right there in the open, unbalanced, unsure now whether to run left or right or back the way that she had come. She felt uncomfortably like an animal caught on the road in the headlamps of an oncoming steam carriage. Bassington didn’t move. He stared at her with his beady eyes. His eyes went wide though when Zurfina reached up to snatch something out of the air. Normal, non-magical people couldn’t see them, but he could—the glamours that orbited her head were spells cast earlier, awaiting the moment when she needed them.

She crushed the glamour and pointed her hand at the spot where Bassington stood, just as he dived away. The entryway where the wizard had been, and the passenger coaches on either side of him exploded, lifting much of the train up off the track as metal and wood shrapnel and human body parts flew in every direction. The flash knocked Zurfina herself back onto the cement and sent her sliding across the pavement and into the far wall. Before she could get up, she was hit with a dozen bolts of magical fire, some but not all of them deflected by her magic shield. It was a spell of weakening, followed by one of sleep though that finally dropped her head unconscious to the ground. The last thing she saw was Bassington’s hobnail boots walking toward her.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Three

Brechalon (New Cover)Yuah stood in the courtyard, idly staring up at the eclipse, and totally unaware that she was being watched from a window on the third floor. Terrence watched her, appraising her in a way that he didn’t bother appraising other women. There was no doubt that she was beautiful. She wore no makeup, had her hair pulled back into a bun wrapped by a maid’s cap, and she wore a simple servant’s dress with minimal bustle and almost no color. And yet she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. There was no doubt about that. Iolanthe was thought to be a great beauty and with her flawless skin and those striking aquamarine eyes, she was something special. Yuah’s chocolate brown eyes had a tenderness and an innocence in them though that one would never find in his sister’s, and Yuah’s features were perfect. She could have been one of those women that the great sculptors of old used as a model. She was just the right height and she was well proportioned. So what if she was a bit skinny.

Yuah was almost perfect. But Terrence didn’t want an almost perfect woman. He had thrown away any chance at a wife and a family and a home. That was not going to be his future. His future was far away, in another time and another place, on a great field of purple flowers with a woman who was frighteningly perfect. He turned away from the window and climbed back into bed, pulling the box filled with small blue vials from beneath the pillow.

 

* * * * *

 

A large square of sunlight filled the center of the cell floor, and sprawled naked in the center of that square, was Zurfina. She lifted her head up just enough to look around and then she slammed it back against the stone floor. Then she lifted it up and slammed it back down again: once, twice, three times, till there was a bloody spot on the floor and a bloody contusion on her forehead. The walls of the cell had all returned to their original stone texture. Not even the arcane bloody scrawling remained.

Schwarztogrube really was proof against magic. She had summoned the most ancient magic in the universe, a feat only possible because of the eclipse, and had used it to release the dead demon-gods that waited beyond the edge of sanity. But even they had not been able to completely pierce the veil. All of that magic was still not enough. Without the power of the eclipse, it was not enough, and the eclipse had not lasted long enough. And it would be a long time before the next full eclipse over Schwarztogrube.

“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days!” Zurfina wailed. “Kafira’s bloody twat!”

She looked up at the ceiling as if she could see the sky beyond it and dared the Zaeri-Kafirite God and his crucified daughter to strike her dead. Could even his magic penetrate this magic-proof hell? Prove it!

 

* * * * *

 

“Is it over?” asked Senta.

“Yup.” Maro stood up from the pinhole camera that he had made to watch the eclipse, in actuality nothing but a small pasteboard box with a hole cut in the side. Shining in through the tiny hole, the image of the sun had been visible on the back side, and as the moon had moved across the sun, the small white orb in the box had been covered and then uncovered.

“That was pretty ace, wasn’t it?”

“I guess so,” said Senta. “I wish we could have watched the real thing.”

“You’d be blinded.”

“Yeah. I’m glad you were able to make it with only eight fingers.”

Maro nodded and looked at the three remaining fingers on his right hand.

“Maybe someday you’ll be really rich and you can pay a wizard to regrow your fingers for you,” offered Senta.

“Maybe I’ll get so used to having eight fingers I won’t want my other ones back. I bet pretty soon I’ll be able to do my eight times as good as you can do your tens.”

“What’s seven times eight?”

“Fifty six.”

“Is that right?”

“Yup.”

“Wow.” Senta looked impressed and she was. “What are we doing now?”

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m going to play Mirsannan cricket at the park. You can’t go because you’re a girl.”

“Then I’m going to the toy store and buy a doll.”

“You don’t have enough money to buy a doll.”

“Uh-huh. For pretend.”

“Yeah, alright.”

“You know when you said my mom didn’t want me?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t understand it.”

“What?”

“Well, look at me. I’m just cute.”

 

* * * * *

 

“Eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days,” Zurfina told herself. “I’ll be old. Well, I’ll be older.”

The sorceress was already far older than she appeared. Thanks to magic used long ago, her body was much younger than it should have been. But it was aging now. Here in this place where magic had no hold, it was aging. In eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days, she would most surely begin to look old—not as old as her true age, but old. Too old. She would have no youth, just as now she had no magic. She couldn’t wait eight thousand four hundred thirty-seven days. She had to get out. But she couldn’t use magic. What could she use? What did she have?

She had her youth… for now. She had her beauty… for now. She had this body, this body that men wanted… for now. She had to use what she had.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part Two

Brechalon (New Cover)“So can you see the eclipse?”

“Sure. It’s ace,” said Saba, standing in the courtyard. Then he turned and saw who was speaking and flinched.

“Would you like to take a look, Miss?” he asked, offering Iolanthe the magic glass pane.

Taking the almost opaque square, she held it up to her eye and pointed her face toward the sky.

“Interesting. It looks like a halo.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it does look like a halo, um… Miss.”

“It doesn’t feel like a halo, though, does it?”

“Miss?”

“Look at it again,” she said, handing back the magic glass. “This time, tell me what you feel.”

The boy looked again and suddenly shuddered. When he looked back at her, his face was accusing. She had made him aware of something he hadn’t noticed before. There was something evil about the eclipse, and though he had looked forward to the event since he had first heard about it from his mother, now all he wanted was the return of the sun in its full glory.

 

* * * * *

 

The thing on the other side of the membrane between two worlds tested it once again, and a moment later it burst through. It was long, thick tentacle, necrotic grey and covered with suction cups. It searched along the stone floor of the cell, tentatively at first. Then it touched the sorceress sitting naked and chanting and suddenly it shook and thrashed throughout the chamber.

“No!” shouted Nils Chapman and he jumped in front of Zurfina. The tentacle found him and wrapped around his waist.

“No!” he cried again, and then it yanked him so violently that the snapping of his neck was clearly audible, as it pulled him beyond the shimmering veil.

Suddenly the room was filled with a hundred tentacles, touching every inch of the cell, caressing the woman like a demonic lover. She slowly rose to her feet, the tips of the alien appendages touching every inch of her skin.

“Uuathanum eetarri blechtore maiius uusteros vadia jonai corakathum nit.”

A black fog poured into the cell from all four walls. It filled up the tiny chamber and sprayed through the openings in the door, creeping down the corridors of the prison and into every room and every cell, every nook and every alcove.

 

* * * * *

 

“How is it?”

“It was ace,” replied Saba. “Now I just want the sun to come back.”

“Don’t be like that.” Yuah stepped down the stairs from the back door and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Let me take a look.”

Saba held the square of magic glass up and Yuah pressed her eye to it, leaning back to find the sun. “There. The sun’s starting to move out from behind the moon. In a few minutes everything will be just like it was before.”

“Good.”

“You shouldn’t let Miss D ruin your fun. She’s a right bitch, you know.”

“No, she’s not.”

“She is.”

“Well, it’s not her fault.”

“What do you mean?” asked Yuah.

“Nothing. Here. Do you want this?” Saba pushed the magic glass into her hands and started up the stairs into the house.

 

* * * * *

 

Zurfina smiled as the dead grey tentacles caressed her.

“Now I will leave and now I will lay my vengeance on this stony prison and this little kingdom and this world.” She raised her arms and began her final incantation. “Uuthanum…”

At that moment a thin streak of light entered from the small window high up on the wall. It was so tiny that it might have gone totally unnoticed, had it not stuck the first and largest of the grey arms moving around the cell. But the tiny sliver of sunlight burned through the tentacle like a hot ember through a slice of bread. The great tentacle jerked and thrashed about the room and the other appendages did too, one of them striking the woman and throwing her halfway across the floor. More sunlight entered through the window and all of the unearthly, unholy members were yanked back through the portals that shimmered where the walls of the cell had once been.

“No! No, I’m not finished!” screamed Zurfina.

Brechalon – Chapter Eight Part One

Brechalon (New Cover)“What do you have there?” asked Zeah.

“It’s magic glass,” replied Saba, holding up a small square of very dark but very shiny material.

“This conversation sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Did you trade your magic beans to get this magic glass?”

“Don’t be silly Mr. Korlann. I didn’t have any magic beans and this cost me 75P.”

“Good heavens. Why would you pay 75 pfennigs for that?”

“For the eclipse.”

“Eclipse?”

“Sure. There’s an eclipse today. Almost a full one. If we were in the channel it would be full. It would get dark in the middle of the day.”

“Oh yes, yes. It was in the paper. I imagine it will be spectacular enough right here in Brech City. But what is the glass for?”

“Haven’t you ever heard that you shouldn’t stare at an eclipse because you’ll go blind?”

“Of course.”

“I can’t tell you how much that has worried me since I found that out,” said Saba. “I’m always afraid that I might accidentally look at the sun and it would be just my luck that there was an eclipse going on right then and I would go blind.”

“Well, first off, there’s nothing special about an eclipse that is worse on your eyes. Stare at the sun anytime, eclipse or no, and you risk damage to your…”

“Anyway,” the boy interrupted. “I got this glass so I can watch the eclipse. You can stare at it all day through this and not get blinded. Can’t see a bloody thing through it now though.” He tried to look at the head butler through the small pane held to his right eye.

“Let’s hope it really works,” said Zeah skeptically. “I trust you bought it from a reputable dealer.”

“Sure. I got it at the potion shop on Avenue Phoenix. They’re selling loads of them. If it doesn’t work, they’ll be hip deep in angry blind people.”

 

* * * * *

 

“It’s almost time now, Pet,” said Zurfina looking at the sun, through the tiny window high up on the wall.

Nils Chapman was crawling on his knees next to her. Shaking and twitching uncontrollably, he no longer had the ability to stand on his own. This didn’t bother him because he no longer had the ability to think on his own either. He crawled along on all fours drooling like a dog to the center of the cell.

Zurfina peeled off the filthy rags that had been her only clothing since she had been brought to this hellhole one thousand nine hundred eighty-four days before. She tossed them aside and sat down cross-legged in the center of the cell. Chapman pressed against her, but she pushed him away. Closing her eyes, she began to chant.

“Uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum, uuthanum.” She repeated the word over and over again. Twenty times. A hundred times. Slowly the room became darker and darker. She continued to chant. The eclipse was at his height.

Chapman screamed. Zurfina opened her eyes and smiled. The four walls were walls no more. They were shining, rippling, silvery surfaces like the surface of frighteningly cold and deep water. Sounds could be heard from the other side—freakish, awful piping noises that tugged at one’s sanity. Then the surface directly in front of her bubbled and churned, touched by something on the other side of that boundary between the cell and the abyss beyond.

“Yes!” Zurfina screamed. Then she began reciting a new set of words. “Uuathanum eetarri. Uuthanum eetarri. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum blechtore. Uuthanum maiius.”