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After Sindee left for her meeting I had to get started on my day. First thing I did was call Marcus and arrange to pick him up after I finished at the Architect’s office. We went over the plans and finalized most of the design aspects. There were still a few details that had to be worked out and some additions that I might be adding before we started the process of finding the builders. I left the architect’s office feeling good about how the design was coming along and headed for the campus.
I pulled up to Marcus’s dorm to find him on the steps waiting, flirting with the freshmen girls shamelessly. I smiled and laughed as I spotted a couple of them following him with their eyes, only Marcus could get the attention of College women when he looked like a high school freshman. He jumped in the car smiling as he waved back at the women he was talking to as pulled out of the parking lot. “So you going to tell me what happened to you, or do you want me to guess?” I asked filling my tone with humor.
“The short answer is I screwed up Andrew.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that statement, “what’s the long answer? Details please.”
Marcus took a deep breath before starting. “I guess it all began right after we parted ways. I’m sure you remember Jackson and what he said about knowing what I am. When I stunned him with the spell, I took the time to heal the damage and make him forget he found me. I couldn’t remove the knowledge he had of me being a Mage as he had related to the rest of his family as he said. The information would have come flooding back the first time one of them explained it to him unless I wiped all of his memory. I wasn’t willing to do that kind of damage to the child of my oldest friends, so placed the suggestion that he had found a clue to my whereabouts down in Florida. I let him think I was after the Fountain of Youth; figured when he didn’t find me he might waste time looking for it. I kept on the move for 6 month following that. At the end of the 6 months I found myself up outside of Seattle hanging with a Cabal, learning from them and teaching them how to work without Foci. Two of them were exceptionally talented with Time and taught me a few new tricks.” He paused here, took a breath like he was gathering his thoughts or bracing for something coming, “You remember when I told you to never try a complex spell unless you were sure you knew what you were altering?”
I nodded and kept my expression neutral, “yeah, so what did do that caused this?”
“I told you once before that every Mage finds a way on their own for extending their life span. Mine worked well enough, except there were a few things that weren’t as effectively repaired as I had hoped. Life Magick can repair the damage that is done and keep you healthy, slow the aging process but you still do age. I combined a few other Spheres into my method; however I had never learned or understood Time Magick as well as I would have preferred to incorporate it. I thought I had learned and understood enough so I altered the spell I use for myself. The spell didn’t backfire so much as I didn’t have complete control over it due to a lack of understanding the nature of Time Magicks. I ended up at 13 years old, so I called in a favor, got an ID and even school trans. Jackson and his family won’t be looking for a kid so I figured I’d be safe for a while. I found a state home up there to get me into the foster system and went back to school. I decided I would graduate early as it was easier to be a genius then it was to hide my intellect. I was looking for a school up there when you called the cut out. The number you left was 702, so I knew it was NV, and took a chance it was somewhere in Vegas. Once I got here I traced you through Correspondence. Sindee’s house showed up as the place you spent most of your time. So I decided to wait there. That’s the whole long story.”
“Well Marcus, the only thing I can so to the Magick disaster is you need to learn to follow your own advice. However, you’re probably right that Jackson and his family won’t be looking for a kid. Any other side effects to you powers or anything else?” I asked.
“None thankfully. Now you called me, so I’m guessing you needed help with something. After meeting Sindee and seeing the two of you together, I can guess what you need but I want the whole story as well. Details please.” Marcus’s expression show he was considering what I was about to say carefully.
I took the deep breath this time, settling my thoughts. “We’ve already told you how Sindee and I met originally, and how we came back together. I initially assumed it was just a crush or physical attraction on my part. I’ve never been both happier and scared to have been wrong about something. I’m happy as spending time with her feels right, scared because right now we live in two different realities, and mine puts her life in danger. I called you originally to ask for your advice and possibly aid in attempting to awaken her safely. If you aid me, we can focus the spell through me. I’ll add an additional effect using prime to draw any backlash to me.” I stopped by a drive in and grabbed us lunch. A suggestion for having conversations that you want no one else to hear is to take a drive. “What I need to talk to you about right now however happened last night. First this is that right after we dropped you off, I had a feeling like the one that woke me up the night my family was attacked. It wasn’t identical but very close and it stayed with me to the point where I dreamed of the attack in full vivid detail. The second happened early this morning. I gave Sindee one of my Foci that I don’t use, the Infinity Loop I used for Correspondence when I was doing something complicated. After I put it on her and while we kissed I felt something from my Avatar.” I spoke many times before now of the connection to Magick a Mage has but never gave any detail. The Avatar is the source of that connection. Get any idea of cartoons or online Identities or large blue skinned aliens out of your head. A Mage’s Avatar is a Spirit connecting that exists on another plane. I’ll explain more about the Avatar later. “I’d like your advice and assistance with a Seeking.”
Marcus’s looked me surprised than I had ever seen anyone, then raised his voice as he practically yelled at me, “I’d ask you if you were fucking insane, but I already know the answer is yes.” He calmed down a little after yelling. I drove in silence for a few minutes before he started to speak again. “I’ll assist with the awakening, I like Sindee and think she’s strong willed enough to handle it. The Seeking is another story. You realize that most Mages never attempt one because of the inherent dangers involved. Of the Mages that make the attempt few succeed, some have even completely lost the ability to touch Magick. I know I can’t stop you from trying it so I’ll answer your questions. Convince me of the necessity of doing this Seeking and I’ll assist.”
That was more than I expected and less than I was hoping for but a good start. Marcus started to explain more about the nature of Seekings and Avatars in more detail than before. “What makes a Seeking so Dangerous is that a Mage is trying to communicate directly with their Avatar. As I said the Avatar is a Spirit, not to be confused with ghosts and other restless dead. There are Spirits for everything on this plane from forests and animals to constructs like your cell phone and house, they are everywhere. The old gods from mythology were such spirits in some cases. As powerful as those old gods and spirits are they are part of this plane of existence. The plane of Magick isn’t accessible directly to any except the Spirits that inhabit it. Those spirits while varying in form and power take two form when they come to our plane. Avatars and Familiars, we’ll speak of familiars another time. As you already, Avatars are the source of power and knowledge that a Mage draws upon to use Magick. While the Mage gets the ability to use Magick, the Avatars get a connection to our world and also gain power and knowledge, a very symbiotic relationship. A Mage and their Avatar rarely if ever speak or interact with each other beyond the passing of power and wisdom back and forth. A Seeking allows a Mage to communicate directly with their Avatar. The danger involved come from a few areas, first Avatars don’t actually speak so the communication is in the mind which has to be open between the Mage and the Avatar. No hiding portions of it, no shields because in effect the Mage and Avatar become one being on a journey through planes together. The second area of danger is that the primary purpose of a seeking is to make the bond between them stronger granting the ability to drawn upon and use more Magick at a given time, the Seeking forces the duo to fight and earn the power they gain. This journey and fight differ for every Mage. The fight doesn’t have to be combat, it has been reported by some Mages as a conquering of their inner demons, and others spoke of surmounting their weaknesses of character. Combat both physical and with Magick have been reported as well. Failing a Seeking has resulted in everything from Death to the worse punishment, from a Mages perspective, losing the ability to touch Magick entirely. I don’t know how long you’ll be in the seeking, but while you’re in that state you’ll be vulnerable anyone who wants to take a shot at you so you’ll need a secure place to do this.” He stopped explaining what happened during a seeking. “Now convince me why you have to do this if you want me to help you do it.”
I drove in silence for a few more minutes, gathering my thoughts on how to convince Marcus to help me with the Seeking. “The first reason I need to do this has to do with my arrival in Vegas. After running into Sindee again I looked back along my path here using Time and Entropy Spheres. I found that while no other Mage had influenced me into coming here, I had been guided by the Magick itself. The second reason is because the feeling I got last night, I think it was some kind of warning from the Magick or quite possibly my Avatar. I only suggest this because on the night of my Awakening I was woken from a sound sleep, alerted to the danger before it got to my. Later the same evening after the evil bastard had picked me up by my throat; I heard a voice telling me to accept what I was seeing and fight. The warning from last night may have been about any of us, Sindee, you or even me again.” I paused here for a few minutes to let what I said so far sink in. I continued driving us around town. After about ten minutes I gave Marcus one more reason, “The last reason is the most important one. I love Sindee more than I can put into words and this Seeking may be the only way to get the information or power I need to protect her and anyone else from what I fear is coming.” I drove on in silence, focusing on the road and motion to keep my mind busy.
A half an hour passed as we continued driving, I had taken around the city on the highway while we spoke. I decided to drive towards the land I purchased for my house while I waited for him to come to his decision. Marcus finally broke the silence buy clearing his throat before responding, “When and where do you want to do this?”
I pulled over and turned to face him, “First, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Andrew, I don’t want to do this at all, but you convinced me that it must be done and I’d rather help you than lose a friend because I didn’t do what I could to help. You said first so I’m assuming there’s a second….” He looked at me expectantly.
“Second is simple, thank you. If you ever need my aid in anything tell me and I’ll be there. As for when and where, one night this week out in the middle of nowhere to make sure no one else is around to put us in danger or be endangered. I need a day or two to get some supplies together; I’m going to try a ritual I’ve been working on to possibly aid in the Seeking. The supplies will aid me in focusing the intent of the Magick I put into the Ritual.”
A small look of concern passed across Marcus’s face as he asked, “You’re sure you want to use untested ritual Magick in conjunction with a seeking? I’m just asking as you can see what happened to me when I used untested powers.”
“The ritual itself is untested; however I’ve been developing it for quite some time. I have my intent for how the Magick will work fully set in my mind and it uses Spheres for which I have a talent.” I reassured Marcus. I should tell you now the second secret I learned about using Magick. Intent, most spells that go out of control are because the intent of the Mage isn’t focused. Magick can be used just as any tool; in the hands of an amateur who doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing it’s like a sledgehammer, effective but not precise. In the hands of someone who knows exactly what they intend to do with the spells it’s like a scalpel in a master surgeons hand. Always firmly set in your mind what you intend to do with a spell before casting it. Even in the head of combat, more so, especially in the heat of combat know what you intend or be prepared to die by your own Magick because something went wrong. A focused intent will not guarantee success but it does greatly reduce the chances of a spell backfiring on the caster.
I took Marcus back to the campus so he could continue his flirting and handle his preparations. I went to one of the local occult shops and purchased some supplies. Some of the items Mages and hedge wizards use overlap; the difference comes in how they are used. For a hedge wizards, these items must be used in specific ways and specific amount for their spells to have a chance of succeeding. For a Mage, the items act as temporary Foci for desired effects. Could I have performed the ritual or spells without them, yes. Using them to focus my intent however makes casting the spell easier as well as gives me something transfer power into for maintaining the spell allowing me to concentrate on what I’m doing. Another thing about Foci and Mages is that a Mage can use almost anything to act as a focus; the items chosen usually reflect their training. Fortunately my training at Marcus’s hand taught me that Foci, while not needed, can be useful and need only apply to the Sphere or spell from my perspective. I put the supplies into the trunk of my car and headed toward Sindee’s.
I arrived back home in the early afternoon just as Sindee got back from her meeting. I told her that Marcus and I were taking an overnight camping trip this week while she was working. Sindee made lunch for the two of us and we spoke of how the morning went. Sindee told me that at she would be off of graveyard shifts in a couple of months as she had finished her residency for emergency medicine. This was great news as it would allow us to spend so much more time with each other. I had so much I wanted to tell her and even more I wanted to ask, but until she was awakened I couldn’t do so. After we finished we laid down together so that she could get some sleep for work that night. I waited until she had fallen asleep before getting out of the bed. She looked perfect lying there sleeping so peacefully, I would hate myself if she were to be hurt in any way by my actions. I sat there watching her sleep thinking about everything that has happened in the two months. Things have been getting better and simpler; I should have expected the other shoe to drop before now. I knew that the Seeking could kill me, but I couldn’t tell Sindee that I may just disappear from the face of the earth if things went that way.
I left Sindee to sleep after about an hour and went to my car. I brought the items for the ritual into the house and started to infuse them with Magick to allow them to continue the spell once cast. This was only a temporary process; infusing Magick into objects for one shot spells is easy. Creating a permanently enchanted Talisman was one of the most difficult things a Mage can do. These Magick infused objects allow even normal mortals to use the spells stored inside. After I prepared the objects for the ritual and stored them I went back into the bedroom and lay back down with Sindee. I placed my arm over her side taking the Infinity Loop into my hand. I focused the intent of my Magick and drew power from several Spheres infusing a spell into the pendant. If all went well while I was doing the Seeking the Charm would do nothing at all and I’d remove the spell the next time we were together. If she was put into mortal danger while I was away the Charm would save her through several different means. If she suffered a fatal injury it would heal the damage allowing her to survive and seek medical attention, I also infused a bit of counter magick into it so if a caster threw a spell at her it would fail, unless it was more powerful than the counter spell I put inside. In that event the final measure I put into the Charm would take effect, Sindee would instantly traverse the distance between us appearing at my side. This last effect would create a severe backlash, but to save her life I would accept it. The only downside to that last measure as it would alter Sindee’s perception of reality causing her mind to awaken to the greater reality. We already discussed the possible end results to this which is why I hoped it wouldn’t be needed so Marcus and I could guide her to the awakening. I released the pendant and pulled her close to me, wrapping her small frame in my arms just resting peacefully with her.
After Sindee left for work I set about adding some security to the house. Marcus reminded me that Mages can track people through Magick in a variety of ways; I figured he tracked the signature of my castings. When a Mage alters reality they leave an echo of their power in the area. This echo or resonance can be used to identify an individual Mage if you’ve seen their castings before, and since he trained me, Marcus knew my signature as I did his. The more coincidental the Magick the less of a resonance it leaves behind. In order to make it more difficult for anyone else who may have been looking for my resonance I placed wards around the items I had altered. Wards didn’t change and alter reality as much as bend Magick around them. They left no resonance and were almost impossible to detect even if you knew to look for them. The ones I placed here would only be temporary but should hold up until whatever I felt coming was over and I was able to complete my Sanctum. That evening passed quickly as did the following day.
On the second evening after Sindee left for work I drove to pick Marcus up from the dorm. When I arrived I used sensory magick to look for any trace of mages other than Marcus here on the campus. I didn’t see much and none of the resonance I could see showed a destructive nature to the casters spells. I waited for a few minutes and when Marcus hadn’t come out to meet me as we arranged I sent a text letting him know I was waiting. When Marcus came out it was with one of the freshmen I saw him flirting with a couple days before, both of their clothes looked rumpled. Marcus waved and jumped into the passenger seat smiling. I drove out of town heading for the fastest route out of town. We drove a couple hours into the empty desert so I didn’t have to worry about any sleepers wandering by. I parked the car at the end of a service road and grabbed my supplies from the trunk. Marcus and I walked out into the desert for about a half hour until we were in an area with no other signs of human life.
I stared of by using the Life Sphere to extend my senses and make sure there was nothing else alive out here. I found plenty of plants and insects like scorpions and snakes. I also felt some kind of canine, I figured it was a coyote out this far. I decided this was a good enough area and started to spread the crystals infused with magic into a circle around the area I intended to use for the Seeking. I placed nine to form a ring and a tenth at the very center of the ring and sent my magick into the last one. Immediately a line of sand stretched from the center crystal to each of the outer ring turning the sand into glass as it did so. The crystals in the ring spread a connecting line forming a physical circle in the sand that turned to glass like the lines connecting to the center. Once the circle was fully manifested I stopped the flow of magick for the time being. In each wedge formed but the glass I etched into the sand a glyph representing each of the Spheres infusing magick from each into the matching representation. I finished the preparations for my spell and looked to Marcus who was standing outside the ring, “Last chance to change your mind,” I called to him.
Marcus stepped forward into the circle and replied, “Too late for me, you can still change your mind thought.” I gave him a withering look at that and he continued speaking, “I figured that would be the response. You convinced me this was needed and I agreed to help, you can’t get rid of me now.”
I let my face show how much his aid meant to me, “As this is a seeking and the ritual spell will contain the Magick used within ward against outside Magick, repelling some absorbing the rest, I’ll activate the protection and start the seeking from the Spirit Sphere’s Wedge. After I start the seeking if you need to break the protection of the ritual remove the center crystal. Thank you again for being here.” I sat facing the glyph representing spirit magic. Closing my eyes activated the protection of the ritual, all around us a shield appeared blurring reality. All around the circle and within the fabric of reality that separated the planes would be lowered making communication and travel easier. I dropped all the shields I kept around my mind and drew upon the Spirit Magick to bridge the gap between this plane and my Avatar.
I continued to relax my mind letting the raw power of Magick fill me doing nothing to alter or direct the flow. I felt a pull from my Avatar, no longer sensing the world around me I opened my eyes. The desert and Marcus were gone; the landscape I was seeing made no sense to me at all. I was floating in the sky miles above a cityscape. Looking around there was nothing but gray stone buildings from horizon to horizon; every one of them identical to the rest. This caused a feeling of foreboding that flowed within me. I heard again that voice from years ago, “Stasis, the end of Magick in the world. Without Magick change stops, reality decays.” We were still floating as time seemed to pass backward below in the world. The building began to disappear and life could be seen, animals, plants and people moving around the world. Then the view changed again as time seemed to flow forward again. The world began to speed up, wars started. And the destruction mounted Mages started popping up everywhere fighting with Magick openly, no backlashes keeping this destruction in check, stopping people from changing the world at will. Soon the world was covered in ashes and craters, cities gone, all life extinct and the voice came again, “Chaos, Magick out of control in too many hands, a Mage war fought in the open, all life destroyed, Stasis comes again.” These images faded as I was shown the world again, wars and battles being fought in secret, Mages and other supernatural creatures hiding their wars from the rest of humanity. I was shown this war for centuries in our world, battles won and lost by both sides, neither gaining ground to quickly until the last century as cities and buildings taking over landscape, creatures of mythology disappearing as though they never existed, belief in unknown going away, Stasis taking over. The Voice came again, “Stasis is the end result of the war if either side succeeds in their goals. The point of the war is not to win but to bring Ascension to all people, not to impose the beliefs of one side over the other. Fight for Humanity as you have been empowered to do so, not to gain for yourself,” the voice cut off as abruptly as it started. The idea of Ascension was important to all Mages. As I understood it, a Mage who gained enough knowledge and power could ultimately become a higher being, a god of sorts. There were many theories from as many different sources as to what that meant for the Mage in question. The two most popular being that they did in fact ascend to become th God or Creator of a new plain, controlling the paradigm of that reality, and the second was that they ultimately became Avatars or Familiars for future mages. If the knowledge I just received was any indication; Ascension was not limited to Mages but to all creatures whether Human or other Supernatural.
The world in front of me changed as well as my perspective of it. I was now back in the mountains watching as the man I remembered approached a cabin. I followed him as he closed with the building remaining in the shadows, unseen and unheard by those inside. I knew what I was seeing, the night of my Awakening. I felt the desire to stop this man from going in, using the power I have now to stop him. I started to move silently towards him when I stopped. I knew that Mages have lost their powers during a Seeking and that what happened in here could manifest itself in the world outside this vision. If I stopped him I could save my family before anything happened, I’d most likely never Awaken if I did. The ultimate question of Paradox, can a man invent a time machine, go back and kill himself before he invented it. This situation was a little different, if I killed this man before he entered the cabin and caused my Awakening I would save my family, but with the knowledge I’ve been given since starting this Seeking would be lost. I reached out with Magick sensing those in the Cabin and realized that I was sound asleep with no sign of stirring. I reach into the back of my younger mind, into the primal portions of it and pressed Magick into the danger sense. I pulled back as soon as the mind snapped into consciousness, knowing now where that first warning came from. That more than anything else so far in this journey made me worry as the feeling I had the other night was similar and I had no idea where it came from.
Suddenly the world shifted around me again and I was standing alone in an open field surrounded by trees. Across from me stood another man, the power coming from his was dark and palpable. His face was hooded, and the clothing was covered in blood and gore. His eyes hidden within the hood glowed green in the twilight as we faced each other. He pointed at me and a bolt of energy leapt across the gap between us, by sheer reflex I managed to throw counter magick to stop the spell. “You are the cause of my pain, you failed to protect them all.” A gravelly voice shouted as another bolt of energy flew at me. I stayed quiet, focusing on my defense as the being in front of me was powerful and knew his spells by Rote so he could cast them at will. I dove to the side, going into s shoulder roll as I cast the Rote activating my sensory magick that combine all sphere so I would know what he was using to attack. I felt electricity gathering in the air and threw up my most power counter spell using forces as lightning struck down from the sky repeatedly striking the spot I was standing. I felt every strike as it hit my shield and the last penetrated my defense. I was in pure agony as the raw power traveled though my body burning tissue and nerves as it did so. I dropped to my knees barely able to take a breath with the pain I was in. The man crossed the field to stand over me and pulled back the hood. The face was marked with scars and age. The expression of anger twisted features that I couldn’t have recognized for the years on them, but the eyes I knew. They showed an eternity of pain and knowledge in them, but I knew them, I saw them every time I looked into a mirror. The man continued to yell, “You could have given up the power and saved our family. You chose magick over them. You will make choices in the future that I can no longer live with. I am going to erase us both from existence to stop you here and now.” I hear the insanity in the voice and words and felt him pull upon all the Spheres at once, drawing into himself more power than I any mage could wield. That was when I sensed something that nearly froze me in place, the power wasn’t from an Avatar but a malevolent being feeding on the rage. I reacted by pure reflex and wrapped the consciousness of my Avatar into my own and opened myself as a conduit for Magick itself drawing in any power thrown at me and sending it through us into the Plane of Magick. This would either work or I would die, but I knew killing myself in a seeking was not an option. The power was thrown in its raw for with the only intention of destroying us both. As the power hit and was pulled in I could feel every cell of my body, it was like each cell had an infinite number of nerves each only capable of feeling pain. While a normal nerve could only feel so much before numbing this felt like it went on forever. When the being assisting my other self tried to stop the flow of power I reached out through the pain and continued to drain the power just letting it flow through me. When the power stopped the man before me had no Magick and the being supporting him was gone. The older version of me stood and faced me as I lay there on the ground exhausted from the pain, “Protect her no matter what else happens or you will again become what you saw before you.” As he spoke the last word the world around me went black.
When I came to the sky was starting to brighten, I took a deep breath feeling like I had been on fire and coughed. Marcus’s voice came from my right, “About time you woke up, I think we’re in trouble.”
I sat up, my body protesting the movement and looked around me to see the source of Marcus’s concern. Around us, outside of the circle was a pack of wolves circling. My first thought was to reach out with mind magic and chase them off. I realized immediately that wasn’t an option as I was exhausted mentally and emotionally from the Seeking. The next thing I realized was the large bi-pedal wolf standing behind the others. The next thought to come to mind also came out of my mouth, “We’re fucked…..”