High Mage Gellinns was not accustomed to interruptions. His time was of the utmost worth to the Empire. It was in his office that the most recent advancements were made in the ley line flows of arcane energy, allowing an increase of power that had not been seen in nearly a hundred years. More wizards, dwelling in more floating citadels, meant the Empire could expand that much faster. And the faster the Empire reached the farthest edges of the World, the better.
Granted, the Empire did not seem to recognize his accomplishments. No, it was Harsen, that backstabbing aspirant, that received all the accolades. Promotions, a seat among the elite of the Empire, positions of authority, and more had fallen in his former partner’s lap within weeks of the spellweave’s debut. Harsen had taken all the credit, while Gellinns toiled away in basement laboratories. Let him have the credit, Gellinns thought bitterly at the time. It’s only a matter of time before his arrogance got the best of him.
Gellinns’ office was filled with enchanted trinkets, half-scribbled scrolls, and letters requesting his advice or counsel on matters of lesser significance. At its center sat the high mage, a simple chair set before a simple desk. Its placement was an ideal location, squarely at the center of a nexus of energies. This had the unfortunate side effect of being turned at just the wrong angle to look like it was deliberately placed. The room was, as some would put it, untidy.
Before him stood the most frustrating of interruptions that he had experienced in some time. Filling the room’s scarce empty space was a High Mage who, according to rumor, was Harsen’s new apprentice. Lindin was young, far too young to be trusted with the duties he held, or so went the rumors. And now he deigned to interrupt Gellinns’ numerous projects, without so much as the courtesy to request a meeting. What was Harsen playing at?
“What, exactly, is the matter?” Gellinns repeated slowly, attempting to hide the displeasure from his voice. In his hand, a feather quill continued to move hastily across the parchment on his desk, jotting intricate notes on advances matrices of energy crystals. No need for his entire mind to be present for such a small thing.
“I’m not sure,” Lindin admitted, “but I have been watching the Senate for some time, and I can assure you that there is an anomaly of some sort in the spellweave.”
“Impossible,” Gellinns replied sharply, adding a flourish to his notes as he did. “The spellweave is perfect in every way. Argantin himself could have done no better.” Inwardly, he chastised himself for the profanity, but all the same, it was true.
“Sir, I do not mean to be disrespectful,” Lindin began.
Gellinns interrupted, “Then don’t be. There is nothing wrong with the spellweave, and to continue to insist such is highly disrespectful.” He finished his notes, cursing the distraction caused by this so-called High Mage. The work alone to refine his current project would take another week or two after this conversation. He stood, rising just above Lindin’s stature. “Have I made myself clear?”
Lindin bowed respectfully. “Yes, high mage,” he intoned, “but in this case I must insist.”
Gellinns ran a hand through his ever-thinning hair, eyes wide. “What do you want? Did Harsen send you? Has he nothing better to do than pester me, after all he’s done?”
Lindin’s face reflected puzzlement. “I’m here without the High Arcanist’s direction,” he said slowly. “In fact, he also told me that nothing could be wrong, that I was incorrect in my observations.”
For the first time in a very long time, Gellinns’ mind stopped, and turned its complete attention to the boy before him. He eyed Lindin from head to toe, noting every detail. Perhaps he was lying, and Harsen had sent him. Or perhaps not. The odds that anything should go wrong with the spellweave were minimal, if it was possible at all.
Perhaps the time had come to knock Harsen down a notch or two. Gellinns grinned. “Tell me everything from the beginning,” he said, reaching for fresh parchment.
For the next hour, the two wizards worked: Lindin spoke of everything he had seen of the anomaly, its interactions in the surrounding spellweave, and its continual growth. Gellinns took detailed notes, his mind divided between listening and entering the spellweave to confirm Lindin’s descriptions. Sure enough, there it was, a blotch on a pristine landscape. How had the other Watchers missed this? Harsen must have blinded them all with his ego for an error this large to go unnoticed.
As Lindin concluded his description, Gellinns set down the pen gently, his brow glistening, his heart pounding. This, he was certain, could yet elevate him into the ranks of the arcanists. “Thank you for bringing this to me, Lindin,” he said, controlling his voice. “I will review these notes, and send a message to you when I am ready to meet with you again. This will take a great deal of research on both our parts.”
“Of course,” Lindin said. “Thank you for listening to me.”
Poor, innocent boy, Gellinns thought coldly. He nodded at the words, but his mind was elsewhere. The younger mage rose, bowed gently, then left the room without another word.
Even as Gellinns returned to his other tasks, his thoughts remained on the spellweave. What if something had changed in the flow of the ley lines? Could they cause such an anomaly as this? If the ley lines had truly shifted, what had caused them to shift? The maps charting their course through the World had been written centuries before the Empire’s existence. Never had anyone even considered that they were flexible. The implications of such a discovery gave Gellinns pause. He needed another look.
He set down the instrument in his hand, no more than a wand to a common man. Closing his eyes, he eased himself into the spellweave, then made his way to the Senate. At first, he saw nothing, only the coming and going of the Empire’s brightest minds. The archives were in place, without a trace of damage to them. Then, the shape came into form once more, its blackened aura darkening the basement of the structure.
It pulsed in methodical movements, pulling energy from the spellweave into itself. It almost appeared as a tumor, both benign and dangerous at once. How could such a thing have formed? It was not possible, so far as Gellinns knew. Had he not seen it himself, he would not believe it. “What are you…” he muttered under his breath.
Without thinking, hands found parchment and quill. He began to note what he saw, how it appeared, how the arcane energies flowed around it. He approached it slowly, his mind reaching out to touch the oddity. A sense of foreboding, of warning, seemed to take hold over his body. Curiosity was stronger, and he pushed ahead.
Steeling himself, Gellinns reached out with his mind deeper and deeper into the anomaly. His mind clawed at the thing with a need he had not felt in some time. And yet, as he did, he began to feel it claw back at him, dig into his mind, pull him open.
Suddenly, he was on the defensive, trying to keep out the strange presence. Gellinns shouted, clutching at his head, as an unseen force poured into his mind and through his body. His senses ablaze with pain, he collapsed to the floor, writing in agony. He cried out, “No! Get out of my head!” Within moments, his body stilled, and he knew no more.