The story of father and son wizards, trapped in their wizardry citadel, as an army of walker machines invented by the dwarves sought to lay siege and steal their resources. Can they stop the invasion or leave their citadel despite the Council's call for the ultimate sacrifice?
QUEYUEDA, Queyan (34 Aeyr, Tae 3500), The Realms of Fawyrn
Narrow stone steps spiraled around the walls of a deep funnel. Robed men carrying spell books stumbled in panic as BOOM! -- an explosion outside rattled sand and dust onto them and into the abyss down below.
Two of the men, Tyracuse, a forty-year-old heavyset man with a black beard, and Septimus, his seventeen-year-old freckle-nosed son, moved past the rest as they hurried up towards a ledge at the highest level. Sunlight streamed through the archway and the noise of chaos was the loudest there. Tyracuse and Septimus were panting and supporting each other as they clambered up, their voluminous spell books clutched tightly under their arms.
Just as they reached the ledge, another BOOM! rattled the walls of the funnel, sending Septimus' left foot slipping over the edge of the stairs. Luckily, Tyracuse had foreseen it and grabbed his son's robes just in time to pull him back.
"Be careful Septimus!" Tyracuse warned, just as Septimus clung to his father's arm for safety.
"They have finally come father," Septimus said.
"The Council of Queyueda should have heeded my warning! We should have escaped when we could!" Tyracuse shouted above the din, seemingly blaming himself for what had happened.
A group of robed men appeared above them and hurried down the steps. Tyracuse and Septimus had to step aside, their backs to the wall, just to let them pass. Septimus opened his spell book, holding up a page bearing the circular symbol of a fiery bird -- a phoenix.
"Then let us summon this together father! Unleash it against them! Show them who we really are!" The young blue-eyed Septimus suggested, his sweat-drenched face full of eagerness and wonder.
Tyracuse slapped Septimus full across the face, anger flashing in his brown eyes. Septimus had not expected that. The slap was so hard, Septimus had dropped his spell book on the steps. Tyracuse pulled Septimus by his hair, stared at him.
"Have you learned nothing boy? Is your mother's death all for nought? We are not built for such violence! Violence begets violence Septimus! That spell should never have been inscribed! It is not our way! Do you understand me?!"
A bruise had appeared on Septimus' cheek. He covered it with one hand, ashamed and disappointed. Tyracuse realized himself, his anger dissipating from his eyes. He released his hold on his son, lowered his gaze.
"I'm sorry father. I didn't mean--"
Tyracuse had heard enough. He continued his climb. Septimus gingerly retrieved his spell book and hurried up after his father.
Father and son emerged from the archway onto a stone ledge carved around the side of a mountainous cliff. Queyueda was a city of peaceful wizards; a floating mountain city, much like an iceberg in the sky, chained on four sides to gigantic Faw trees scattered all around the swampy marshland of the Fawyrn below.
As Tyracuse guided his son along the ledge, passing wizards in different colored robes inscribed with different sigils, Septimus could see the mist-shrouded shrub-land beyond stretching for miles into the horizon. The stench of the Fawyrn swamps assailed his nostrils all of a sudden, but a stronger scent had been mixed in it -- the smell of gunpowder.
Dotting the horizon to the west were giant mechanical walkers; each a hundred feet tall. They looked like spindly spider crabs, with a central carapace housing the dwarves of Nolrim -- terrible neighbors whose very purpose was to wrest Queyueda from the wizards. The dwarves (and the Queyuedan wizards) knew that buried deep within the mountain were precious spell-stones. To the wizards, the spell-stones were meant for research purposes. To the dwarves, they only saw a value for the black market.
"Incoming!" A shout from one of the wizard scouts echoed along the ledge.
Tyracuse pushed his son aside as a dozen rockets slammed into a force-field surrounding the ledge, illuminating the air in front of them with pockets of blue circular symbols. A group of wizards were standing in a line closest to them, maintaining the force-field. One rocket however slipped through and hammered into the rock above them.
A boulder crashed onto one of the wizards, crushing his leg.
"Listen to me Septimus," Tyracuse shouted at his son, "you must take the Cloudskipper and warn the other hidden Councils!"
Tyracuse reached into the folds of his robe and pulled out a map. He handed it to Septimus.
"Take this map with you! Their locations are all there. Find them quickly and warn them!"
"No father! I must stay here! I want to fight with you!" Septimus protested.
Another explosion rocked the cliff-face. Parts of the ledge crumbled as several wizards wove spells to restore it.
"There is no honor in fighting son! There is honor in living! Now go!" Tyracuse explained. He pushed his son in the direction of the sky-docks. There, several winged contraptions -- Cloudskippers -- were harnessed in their pens. Some of them were already taking off, evading the missiles from the distant walkers.
Septimus looked towards his father one last time, tears welling in his eyes. Then biting his lips and wiping his tears, he turned and headed for the nearest dock.
"Be safe my son...be safe," Tyracuse whispered as he watched Septimus leave.
With a sense of determination, Septimus reached the dock and clambered into one of the Cloudskippers. He secured the spell book on a stand next to the steer and throttle, and quickly folded the map his father gave him into his pocket. Putting on his circular goggles and twisting several dials on the console in front of him, he revved the flying contraption to life.
He had learned how to fly a Cloudskipper since he was twelve, but he had never flown anywhere farther than the outskirts of Queyueda, let alone Queyan. But he knew he was a good pilot, at least a better pilot than he was a wizard, well, at least according to his father.
Back on the ledge, Tyracuse approached a group of wizards standing watch on a parapet, some monitoring the walkers with spyglasses and telescopes. These were the Council-men of Queyueda, the ones who made the rules and often breached them without reproach. Tyracuse made a sickening face just being near them. But he had no choice. He had to speak to the leader, Partheus, a fifty-year-old man in a pristine white robe. Partheus was tall and bald, but he had the greenest eyes to match the bog-green colors of the swamp below.
Partheus smiled upon seeing Tyracuse.
"I see you've asked your son to take the Cloudskipper. I am glad you've chosen to stay, Tyracuse."
Partheus's gaze swept across towards a group of wizards preparing for another onslaught. His smile never seemed to waver.
"We must leave Partheus. Once again, I beseech you, we are powerless against them," Tyracuse warned, his voice becoming desperate.
"And where do we go? Hide like the rest of the Councils? For years now, Queyueda has been a peaceful enclave for learning and tolerance! Years, Tyracuse. But...today, we must show our oppressors what we are made of!"
A shadow suddenly swept across their faces as a Cloudskipper whirred past the ledge. It seemed to be heading towards the enemy.
Tyracuse's face turned pale, his eyes widened. "No..." He recognized the Cloudskipper.
Partheus licked his lips and placed an arm over Tyracuse. "Yes, unlike us, your son truly believes he can summon the phoenix. He is convinced they can be stopped. He is different, Tyracuse."
Tyracuse tightened his fist, struggled with himself.
"He is just a boy...You're sending him to his death!"
"Look at him go, Tyracuse! Aren't you proud of his bravery? His recklessness? Through him, we can change the way the enemy thinks of us! Show them who we really are!"
"He is my son!"
"He is our salvation!"
Tyracuse clenched his teeth, his fists tightening even more. His face had all but drained of its color. He watched as his son's Cloudskipper throttled across the mist, speeding towards the walkers. How far away it was now. He wished he could punch Partheus, but that would mean insolence and warranted severe punishment. With an anguished yell, Tyracuse flung his spell book across the parapet into a corner.
On the Cloudskipper, Septimus blinked sweat off his eyes, wiped his fogged goggles to maintain his view. He was steering the Cloudskipper low, skimming just below the cover of the mist. He opened his spell book to the page with the phoenix. Winds were brushing against his hair, but he paid them no heed. He raised his free hand and chanted the spell --
-- suddenly, his ship jerked sideways! He looked out from the side of his seat -- the Cloudskipper was caught in a net harpooned from a hidden walker just below him. There were walkers below the mists! Several other nets suddenly came rappelling towards his ship. He pulled the throttle all the way to its extreme but to no avail. The Cloudskipper sputtered and swerved but there was no way it could disentangle itself from the nets. Septimus was trapped and he panicked as his ship was slowly being reeled downwards.
On the parapet, Tyracuse watched with dismay as his son's ship was caught in the nets. Septimus was ambushed. He was about to head towards the dock when Partheus knocked him to the ground with his staff.
"Let me save him Partheus! They are going to catch him and kill him!"
Partheus crouched and leaned close, his expression suddenly sympathetic.
"I am sorry. I cannot allow you to do that. I've made a deal, Tyracuse. I've made a deal with them for your son to get caught..."
Tyracuse widened his eyes, realization dawning on his face.
"You made a deal--?"
"Don't you see? They want the map Tyracuse. The precious map you gave your son. The future belongs to the enemy my friend. We must not resist. We must give them what they want or they will destroy our beloved Queyueda!"
"YOU USED MY SON...?!"
"It is the only way Tyracuse! He is the only one among us foolish enough to go out there!"
Tyracuse roared and grabbed Partheus by his neck.
"Wait--what are you doing Tyracuse!"
Without a moment's thought, Tyracuse pushed Partheus towards the edge of the parapet.
As his ship drew closer towards the lead walker, Septimus kept his eyes focused on the opened spell book. He mouthed the words, waving his hands in the air, reaching deep into the wells of energies powering his magic.
His hands were suddenly on fire--white flames dancing around his fingers! The fire whooshed up along both his arms, engulfing his entire body! At first, he didn't feel any sensation, just the scintillating brightness of the fire was blinding even through his goggles. But suddenly, he felt the warmth, the heat and then the pain.
The flames leaped out onto the Cloudskipper, burning the nets below it. As the ship slipped free, it burst into a massive white fireball--shaped like a phoenix!
His entire body engulfed and in pain, Septimus grabbed the steer and maneuvered the ship downwards towards the lead walker. As the fire roared inside of him, eating his insides and tearing his skin and bones, Septimus screamed one last time, his eyes looking towards Queyueda...
"Forgive me father, for I know not what I am doing!"
As Partheus plummeted from the edge of the parapet to his death, Tyracuse looked up to see his son's ship colliding with the lead walker. It exploded with a mighty concussive blast, mushrooming into a gigantic cloud that shook the ground, which can even be felt by those in the floating city. The mushroom cloud engulfed all of the other walkers on the horizon, sucking the mist into its epicenter and blasting them out into a devastating kill-zone.
The force was so great, it threw Tyracuse to the wall.
Slowly, as Tyracuse recovered, he stumbled back up and looked beyond the ledge. He saw a burning wasteland...and all of the walkers gone. Dazed, his face covered in tears, Tyracuse gazed up.
"Salvation Septimus...salvation my son."
A burnt piece of parchment floated down onto his face. He reached for it and looked at it. There...etched on the paper, was the symbol of the phoenix.
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This section highlights the world of Mortalissar in greater detail, especially her territories, countries, races, magic, calendar and belief systems. Occasionally, I will write short fiction stories relevant to a particular realm to define its unique characteristics set against a larger canvas. Hopefully, over time, the collection gives you, the reader, a greater appreciation of the uniqueness of this world, and her many qualities and flaws.