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A student bursts into the Headmaster’s study. "Headmaster Omar!" Omar looks up from his desk to see one of his students, gasping for breath. Not one of his best students, but not one his worst either. "State your business." "Master Sathnia has urgent news for you regarding the project that you all have been working on since the schools have been established." "Tell her I'll be on my way." "Yes, Headmaster Omar." And with that the student left. What is it this time? I hope it's not another delay. I've been looking forward to completing this project for a long time. Omar leaves his study, stopping all his experiments by draining the magic that runs them. Strolling through the halls he makes his way to Sathnia's study, passing classrooms and dorm rooms. The same student leaves as he enters through the double doors of the room. "Headmaster Omar, I am glad you have come so promptly." "What seems to be the problem Sathnia, are there to be more delays in completing the project?" "Oh no in fact quite the opposite, the construction of each facility has been finished and awaiting for the final component." "I'm sure there will be enough to fill each compartment. I have achieved my quota and I hear that the others have as well." Omar refers to several reports from each of the schools all over Tikran, his own continent making up seven of those reports: facilities for Light, Water, Snow, Displacement, Ice, Fog and Heat. "This will be a remarkable day Omar, I can feel it.” Sathnia waves her hand over a map, animating the images to a three-dimensional model of the continent. “We can finally restore the natural order to our world after so many years. It’s been a long time since the end of the war that destroyed all continents but our own. Redemption is at hand.” Omar laughs abruptly. “Why do you laugh?” “Take no offense my friend. It is just amusing to see you in such spirits. I have never thought our work would be taken up as such a noble task. We saved what we could but yes I suppose we too hold that sin over our heads for doing nothing during the war.” Omar looks away, ashamed of the cowardice of his people. The map begins to shimmer and shift as Sathnia speaks an incantation. The Clath Cordillera trembles as a section of Quagz Mountain rises leaving behind a great basin in its place. The summit holds a tower and school nearby. Master Quagz Onalia heads this school and administers the tower. Another word and a sphere of light began to emanate from the peak of the tower, a gentle glow engulfing a considerably large radius around the tower and the surrounding forest. The sky above the forest began to darken, clouds forming and blocking out much of the sun. Snowflakes fell, layering the trees and ground in a blanket of white. The snow of Quagz… At the same time similar towers across the continent were being engulfed, the environment changed according to the power emanating the light. “Now, these are only the projected results of the experiment but they have been found to be concrete.” Sathnia finishes the simulation, putting the map away. “Though, I do not have the maps for the other continents.” “No matter, I’m sure things will turn out as hoped.” Omar sits down at Sathnia’s desk, a look of reflection appearing on his face. “Something on your mind Omar?” “Just thinking about the plans for the towers, they are identical?” “The exterior, focal point, lower chamber and supports are the same for all towers but the interior of each was designed by the Headmasters of the schools; their own special flare.” Quagz Onalia, Kasata Hesholl, Clope Inoc, Woreth Utelle, Trinar Abith, Yatnia Gesch and my son Visteer Lagesse. “Is Visteer to be taking part or will he remain in the castle?” “No, he will be there with my students. He is not quite as adept to magic as his mother and father are.” Omar opens a tome from the piles of books and scrolls sprawled about the scholar’s work area; the familiar plans and spells to make the Orbs line the pages. He turns to the section on energy requirements, the only component missing to utilize the tower’s initial purpose. Once complete, the process could not be reproduced although the remaining functions would still be intact. “All safe factors are in place?” “They should be, Zidone said he would personally attend to it.” Omar closes the book and leaves his friend to organize the mess. “If there are no other matters to attend to I have some experiments to run.” “None that I can think of right now, if any emerges I will bring it up at the next congregation.” Omar leaves the study to retrieve more books from the library. Several students come up to him asking questions on incantations and gestures. He dazzles them with some of his more powerful displays of magic but nothing that would put them in any sort of danger. They leave him, seeming to be satisfied with his answers and examples. As he catalogs which books and scrolls he will be taking back to his study he notices someone transcribing a book. “Zidone, what brings you to this region?” Omar refers to the book as he glances down. “Oh,” Zidone gives a nervous laugh. “I was just going over this book on energy and its concentration. I had not finished it the last time I was here.” He waves a hand left to right on each set of pages, a pen scribing the exact contents onto a new book. He is near complete as he turns the few remaining pages. “Would not that text be pertinent to our plans?” “From what I have read thus far seemed all we need. I will finish reading within the coming days. If there is anything important I will bring it forward.” With that, he turned the final page and closed the book. “Very well, I too have things to read.” Omar leaves the library, his readings in arms. Walking the halls again, empty now. The students are eating their evening meal. Unlike the system back on Majory, students freely share the mess hall and are not segregated based on any particular school of magic. The food is not conjured as those of faith had done centuries ago but grown and cooked in the school’s garden. Animals of various varieties are raised on the fields surrounding the school as livestock. Nutrition is an important lesson the students are taught in their first year. A healthy body allows for a healthy mind and with that mind, feats of magic. Having missed his midday meal, Omar slinks to grab a few of his favorites to bring to his study. Most of what they have is what they saved from the war, having lost countless species of plants and animals. They have tried to recreate much of what the world had by summoning and opening portals to worlds with similar life. Without extensive knowledge on what was, what is can never be the same. Lost. Omar sets his food down. Several students about the hall catch his eye. They are using magic to gather their food for them. Normally he would discipline them for using it so frivolously but would be lenient this time as he was in a rush. He leers at one of the instructors who is surprised by Omar’s presence. The lesser recognizes the expression and looks around seeing several of his pupils partaking in the transgression. The instructor nods to Omar signaling acknowledgement. With the matter dealt with, Omar returns to his study. Laying the scrolls and books on the main desk along side his dinner, he readies himself for a long night. The material taken from the library covers several topics on history, ecology and geography. One tome in particular discusses the war that almost destroyed their world. The people of Majory had wanted no part in it and gathered what they could in terms of species and refugees then closed themselves off from the rest of Tikran. The other nations not having the power to match one consisting mainly of wizards could do nothing but watch as the already floating continent shimmer away. The Majorians had blanketed the floating continent in an illusion, disappearing from the eyes of all others. The same barrier that veiled the nation was also what protected them from the final series of weapons that decimated the rest of the world. Not only did it keep them safe from the weapons but it also kept anyone from entering using portals or gates. They were completely sealed. Before the war, many of the rivaling mages may have partaken in skirmishes. Not until The Diviners took their prophecy to all corners of Majory did they decide to unify as a people and coalesced their power to protect the Enlightened State of Majory from the inevitable destruction. Neutrality and preservation were the unifying forces that allowed such a large body to cooperate. The people could see what was happening around the world through communication portals; marvels of Divination magic. Everyone of the magical country watched in horror and a few in awe as the rest of warring nations let loose their greatest weapons. Nothing remained of the once great civilizations. All life, whether living or undead was obliterated in mere moments. The countless screams of the world in fear and agony could be heard all over Majory through the windows. In moments after the final attacks, all the people could see was a wasteland. Nothing stood of what were once great cities. No remains of any kind could be found to riddle the ground, not a single bone. The magic that had been concentrated to protect their island home, a continent of a moderate size, had kept them safe. The protection spell was not without its price though. The essence of the most eldest living and even that of the lich had been expended in order to accomplish such a feat. With the final wave of energy from below, the barrier began to flicker and then slowly disappeared from the base up. It had filled its role. The people were left to fend for themselves in a dying world. If they did not find a way to heal the land, they knew they would end up in a worse state as resources depleted and space gradually being taken up. The successors would spend the next three hundred years planning a strategy, gathering materials to return to the surface and sail by sea to the other continents. Magic use would be minimal to self defense and training. Other times, only in emergency so that efficiency is kept. All refugees began to take up the mystic arts; the Migration of Arcanum had begun. Once ready many people left Majory to return to their ancestral lands equipped with the same power that had saved them. All children would be taught magic at the same time they would be learning to read and write. Generations would be born and raised in make shift homes after each group had landed on a continent. After such a long time though, the land was not so lifeless anymore. Visitors to their plane had come and laid claim to it. Beings that had once been kept at bay from crossing planar borders had roamed free all over Tikran… Omar stops reading. He had read this book before as a student and it still affects him emotionally. Several different feelings overtake him and he is almost in tears, for he had been there. He is much older than he has let on to the others. He was a young man then. With a little under two centuries past, he is still only that of a man of fifty in appearance. He saw what had been looming under the clouds. Many had died. Many more would have if not for their arcane training. They did rise up against them. They fought them back to their planes of origin but not without being cursed. Each of them, the leaders, was cursed with long life. Omar had seen many of his friends grow old and die. Had taken several lovers and had children. He outlived all of them. His last son, Visteer doesn’t even know the identity of his father. Feeling tired Omar shuffles through the school to his chambers. Please forgive me…my children… With a tear in his eye, he drifts off to sleep.   Having finished his readings and research, Omar continues with his experiments. He has been searching for decades on a way to break the curse. He has learned how to cast it on others in this time but not a way to dispel it. His subjects are mainly familiars of his friends and colleagues from that time. Omar’s recent familiar, a bat, has also been put under this curse. Each one though has done so willingly, asked beforehand. They would not want another component of their master’s life to be plucked by Time’s stoic grasp. For all this time spent alive, Omar and the others never attained a great deal of power; not as much as they could have. The curse as it would seem also limited their abilities to their body’s limitations as opposed to expanding as time progressed.   They had come to this conclusion after the first century when they had been surpassed by those of a much greater innate talent for magic; some being their own children. Power is one thing though, knowledge is something else. They still hold centuries of memories. Many loved ones, friends and family alike. A section of the library in Visteer Castle is dedicated to the lineage of the founders with accurate detail as they are the ones describing each of their descendents. So far, Omar’s experiments have done little to solve the dilemma and he is not alone in his efforts. The others have tried in the past and all have given up. They have accepted their fate. This information though, was not recorded in the history books. No one other than those cursed have any idea of their true identities, figuring them to be descendents of the founders. He has been able to break several hundreds of minor curses and a few stronger ones but still hasn’t found a way to dispel his own. For some reason the same principles don’t apply. Today’s experiments would entail the energy that outsiders use for their spells. If he can harness the energy he might be able to formulate one of an opposite effect which might prove useful in counteracting it. He and the others have explored various aspects of magic and broken down components to their basics. Much research has been done on energy which has played a great deal useful in creating many powerful self-sustaining items. Hours pass and he feels he is no where closer with no breakthroughs and only making more items he has no need for. More failures… years and years have passed and I really have nothing to show for it. My children do not even know who their father is. I haven’t been able to spend time to play that role. But I suppose that is for the best. I have tried that for my first son and daughter and watched them both die in my arms. It would have not bothered me so much had it been in battle where I could exact my revenge on some foe, but to lose them to time… Omar finishes up here and begins preparations for the next day when he and his students will go to the tower in the forest. Years of training will go into the development of the power sources of the towers.   Four figures gaze into a misty pool, the image they see is Omar working away on his experiments. “Do you think he realizes the truth?” One of them looks up at the others. “Highly doubtful. The others failed to find out anything in their studies. He has only been adding to his library of knowledge which will prove quite useless to him when the process begins.” “They thought they had cast us out of their realm. The fools didn’t realize that we left of our own accord, having sown the seeds already.” This one waves its hand and the pool’s image shifts to Zidone. He has finished reading his books and makes plans to tell Omar that they cannot go through with their plans to use the towers. “This one…” “He has been useful these past couple of decades to bring forth our plans. Why let us do all the work if they can do it for us. But, he cannot be allowed to inform the others. This will be the third time that we have erased his memory of all recollection of the danger they are about to put themselves in.” “To think, it was we who supplied the other nations with their greatest weapons.” He snickers as he remembers his dealings with the leaders of the fallen lands. “All is not yet done. Even when they are made, it will still be a few more centuries before we can finally rid ourselves of these wretched beings. Then we can truly recreate the world to our own liking.” “What of the staff?” “I will have someone on the floating continent handle that. The staff is not part of their original agenda. Once they are created and the people begin again, we will leak out information. Someone will find a way to utilize them as a means of a weapon as the towers themselves have many uses according the manuals. All one need do is read them and they can easily learn how to bring out their full potential.” “What of outsiders? What precautions are there to keep them from interfering?” This turns his gaze from the pool and it turns black. “Well, there is little need to worry. We could have stopped them from sealing their world from the other planes but it worked much better to our favour. The barrier keeps any outsider from entering their plane, at least for now. There are those I know of who have been trying to find a way to break the seal, yet another obstacle that will be removed for us.” “All we need now is to wait.” The four of them stare into the darkness of the pool contemplating the future.   Awakening from a restless sleep, Omar reflects on his agenda. The towers should all be complete; all that remains is to gather all the students from the schools. Informing them of what is expected of them should have been done during the morning lesson. Energy pooling was something taught throughout the course so they know what to do. Having dressed in his usual garments he leaves his quarters for the mess hall where all the students were to be assembled after instruction. Omar enters the room, everyone is eating their noon meal and he too joins in. As he makes his way to the faculty seating, he looks for the children he saw the other night. They seemed to have been disciplined as they refrained from using their magic as frivolously from before. Not one to make much social conversation with his staff he finishes rather quickly. He stands at the podium set for general announcements. He eddies some magic in his hand and powers a crystal. A beam of light shoots up to an identical crystal on the ceiling. From there the energy streams along the ceiling to a crystal matrix. It glows as the energy infuses into it. The matrix projects a three dimensional image of Tikran. “As the global image zooms in on the Omar continent you can see the progress of the reforestation. Moving closer now to our region of the continent you will see at least two towers each situated in distant parts of the forest. One is closer to Visteer Castle while the other is not too far from this school. As you have all been informed this morning we will be running an expedition to this tower where your abilities will be put to the test. Not only will the students be participating but all the instructors and myself as well. This is something that is done all across Tikran, from the cold lands of Ekidon, the plains of Sathnia to the coral reefs of Bolerus. Some of you have met my fellow headmasters of some of the schools on Omar before and have participated in the exchange program to see how the people of the other colonies live as well as the magic that the schools teach. “Participation in this excursion is mandatory and all truant personnel have been sent out in case any students choose to wander about while the rest of us make our way through the wilderness. We will be making this trip by foot and no magic unless absolutely necessary. You are free to carry any items on your person but none beyond what you can use immediately if put into a confrontational situation. If there are no viable questions we will leave the premises shortly.” The students oblivious as to what lay ahead of them did not want to question their mentors and superiors. For some it was a matter of trust while, some curiosity while a few out of shear apathy. The students gathered what enchanted personal items they had and waited in the vineyard for the headmaster. With everyone prepared the scholarly mass trudged into the wilderness beyond the sanctity of the school. Groups have gone on field expeditions before in teams of four or five in order to test their skills against harsher conditions than the instructors would be allowed to expose them to on the training fields. Arcane combat training is a specialty that a few had taken up and have attempted to master spells with rays and touch as their means of execution. They favour accuracy with more potentially dangerous and efficient attacks than with the wild firing of projectiles and beams that usually encompass areas for effect which can haphazardly harm innocent bystanders. This idea of course is not shared by all members of the student body or the faculty for that matter. The forest they make their way through although is different from the original that once grew on the land of the druidic nation of Almas. This forest in its earlier stages seemed obviously grown by the intentional sowing of seeds while the other had a more verdantly rampant growth. Even now, the forest still has a feel of spuriousness. The trees in scattered sections would show signs of being planted in rows which may have been used for early harvesting of lumber. The thickness of the underbrush was much less than what had been captured in paintings of the pre-war landscape. The students could easily manage their way through using only their staves and other weapons they carried. “At this point several of you are asking why is there not a road to the tower if it was of such importance for us to get there as a group. To that I say this, we have no intention of leaving a path for others to find. Even as we continue on, the trees several of you have knocked down rather than go around have accelerated growth to erase any trace of our being this way.” Omar directs their attention to their backs, saplings growing by the minute to full adult heights, vines creeping along the grounds and up trunks and hanging down over branches. Logs and recently torn debris quickly sprouted moss and lichen, breaking down into new soil. The further back they looked, the slower the growth seemed to be, the magical effect wearing off and the plants returning to normal. “This is also an importance point to some of you who would choose to leave the group as you would instantly become lost. This is a dual warning to those students who would desert and those who would dawdle, so keep close.” The swarm of mages walked for hours through the forest which was becoming denser as they passed through it. Several students took note that they had several times turned back to the direction of the school. “Excuse me if I am being apprehensive instructor but several of us have noticed that we seem to be going a bit in circles… um… are we lost?” One of them asked. The instructor in question looked at him with an eerie smile. This both confused and disturbed the upper classman. He returned the smile with widening of his eyes and backing away from the man. “Oh, do not be alarmed,” he laughed at the younger. “That is just a part of my twisted sense of humour. I take it you haven’t been in one of my classes. Otherwise you would have known. There is a path to take to get to the tower while going through the forest. If you steer from the trail, you will end up emerging onto the school grounds. It’s meant to protect the tower we are heading to from anyone who would prove malevolent and misuse the facilities therein.”  The instructor walked on seeming to have finished another lesson. Satisfied with the answer but not sure whether to believe it; he returned to his peers to share the news. Omar lead his school through the framed path, wary not to step outside its borders and having to start anew. Their pace had made the trip longer than expected as not all students were as able-bodied as they should have been. “You haven’t been lax in their physical exercises now have you?” Omar questions one of the instructors for endurance training. “No sir, but some have found ways to cheat as it would seem. They all passed exams to meet a satisfactory standard. Looking at some of our lads, I see now why they passed. They were smart enough to use those items to cheat and yet not smart enough to think they would need them today to get there…” The instructor looks down at his feet as they continue walking. “Sir if I may interrupt,” they turn to a female instructor behind them. “I knew they were cheating. I allowed them to pass the exam for when they would need those skills, their incompetence would be revealed; a means to teach them a much needed lesson. I do hope sir that this hasn’t delayed our arrival too much?” Omar laughs at what he hears. “For that, and to see them grumbling amongst themselves, it would seem well worth it. Come, we are not far now.” They leave the trees into an opening. The tower stands tall with a ring of grass surrounding it. It seems simple in construction from the outside, masonry from the base to the apex. No windows, the only way in or out is through a double door iron gate. Rays of light pour down through the canopy, brightening stone and grass to a glow. Several students look upon the scene in awe while others in apathy, not impressed with the mundane external architecture. “It may not seem all that significant on the outside; all the towers have the same basic outer structure. It is inside where each project head have expressed a unique design…” The instructor trails off as they enter and they see what marvels their headmaster has created. “Omar on the other hand has made his to be as plain as can be…” A group of upper classmen snickers at their teacher’s comments. Everyone looks upon the masonry, as drab as tower’s exterior; no special markings, no murals, nothing but a few torches hanging on the walls to light the way. “We are to head to the lower levels of the tower but it’s not as simple as going down a set of stairs. We have circles all over the tower to teleport to and from many different parts of the tower, a common element in several towers. Some floors are only accessible by this means while others require just a bit in ingenuity to find the path. Since we don’t have all day, we will.” Omar and his faculty take the students through the halls of the tower.   “Master Zidone, will you be participating in today’s events?” A cleaner at the library asks the scholar. Other than the servants, the school is empty of people. “No, I will not be. I have some reading to do. Headmaster Omar has informed me that my presence is not necessary. I may view each of them as they occur through a portal but I am rather busy.” Zidone closes one book and reaches out to another in a pile. It is the one Omar had told him to read before they went ahead with project’s completion. “I thought I read this already…” He mutters to himself. “What was that sir?” “Oh nothing. Just thinking out loud.” The servant finishes up her duties and leaves the library. Zidone opens the book and flips through to where he last remembered reading. He has no recollection of reading these pages as a result of the mind control subjected to him. He casually reads through the tome slowly reaching the most significant lines of text.   Omar enters the main chamber below ground. It is circular in nature with crystal rods jutting out from the walls at waist height. The rods seem to have a knob at the tip meant to be grasped. There is a platform hanging from the ceiling big enough to fit only one person.  A large crystal is embedded in the center of the room’s arched ceiling. The floor seems to have a trace of lines that start from each set of rods to the center of the room. The same marks can be seen on the walls continuing to the large crystal in the ceiling. “Now, what I want all of you to do is stand between a set of rods. For those who cannot find a set, there are points on the floor that you can align yourself with. It is not required to be so precise but a general position in the designated spots is required for this to work. The instructors and other members of the school will be in the air encircling me.” Omar whispers a few words and wings sprout from his boots. He flies into the air and lands on the hanging platform. “What is it that we will be doing? We were given some instruction of channeling raw magical energy but not a reason why.” Omar points at the crystals all around the room. “These will direct the energy to a focal point here; this large crystal above me. We will basically be powering the tower for its main function. It will create an object of immense power to create a large field emanating from the peak. Those not against the wall will pool their energy along the web of lines on the floor as the energy from the others flows to you.” The student eyes the headmaster, not fully understanding what’s to come of this. “You will see the end result shortly once we are underway. The process will not take long I assure you. You may feel weak when we are finished but you will be fine.” And with that, Omar takes position under the main crystal. The students reluctantly fix themselves about the chamber. Some are excited pondering what wonders are in store. One by one around the circular room the students begin to chant; incantations to release their stored magical energy. Energy, light; begin to emerge from their hands, growing the more they chant. They grab onto the crystals at their sides, pouring their energy into it. A flow of the energy is seen as the lines on the floor and walls begin to illuminate with the same haunting blue glow emerging from their hands. As the movement passes under students, they release more energy into the floor, increasing the speed and brightness. Soon the entire room is lit up, the energy pooling in the center of the floor and seeping into the large crystal in the ceiling. The floating members of the school direct their energy at the crystal, streams of blue light shooting from their hands. Rays begin to shoot out from the crystal. This is the final burst of energy. Omar finishes his chanting hurls with all his might the energy gathered in his hands. The magic pulses from his body. Some of the students start to yell and scream out in pain. “Headmaster, what’s happening? It hurts!” “I can’t keep this up for long.” Something’s wrong, this isn’t supposed to happen. It should have been completed by now. More and more students cry out in pain. The energy they were once forcing out was now being pulled out from them; drained. A disfigurement appears on the arms, spreading up and all over their bodies; the very substance of their bodies being drawn out along with their magical essence. The skin taught to bone, muscles and organs having been deteriorated. As their necks waste away, the screaming in the chamber dies down and only the wisps of energy can be heard. The rays of light are now a sphere emanating from the crystal. Their skin being the last thing to decay with the remaining life essence extracted. The skeletal remains dropped to the floor in a heap of bones and cloth. Each ring of students falls in succession as the process nears completion.    The light completely engulfs the room, leaving nothing but the remains of the students and faculty. Once filled, the luminescence recedes back to the crystal. The crystal begins to sparkle, becoming unstable. The energy reaches a critical state and explodes from its constraints. It shoots into the conduits in the infrastructure of the tower. Racing upward, the energy powers systems in the tower as it moves past. The tower begins to light up. Floor by floor, the energy rises to the spire. The apex is reached and the energy coalesces. It solidifies, taking on a small spherical shape, an orb. It is transparent in nature but a small floating image can be seen in the core. The arcane symbol for negate. As the rest of the energy pours into the newly formed orb, the symbol starts to glimmer. The orb is completely formed and charged. The orb takes on its function in the tower. The spire draws power from the orb, emanating the effect of the magic within. A radiance spills forth, reaching out from the tower and covering a large expanse around the tower. It dulls down once it reaches its limit. The noise of the forest returns. From afar, the same bursts of light can be seen all over Tikran; a twinkle and then nothing. From deep within, something dark begins to stir… Copyright 2007 Ian Nicholas Commanda

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