The Looming Hour

Published by Lindsay Wardell on 05/03/2018

The chamber was hushed as Velsyph entered. Dozens of wizards, of all ranks and status, were gathered into the small room, waiting for his words. “I have spoken with Argantin,” he began. “We are commanded to proceed with our tasks.”

“What of Gellinns’ death?” one of the gathered arcanists asked warily. “Is he not concerned with the risks involved in this project?”

Velsyph shook his head. “Gellinns was never supposed to see all that he did. Our error was one of not covering our tracks well enough.”

“Is anyone else aware of what we are doing?”

Velsyph paused. Lindin’s scrap of paper still rested comfortably in his pocket. His pace quickened. “No,” he answered, “I don’t believe so. When I received word that the Watchers had noticed something, I informed Harsen that it was to be ignored, nothing of interest. How Gellinns discovered it is still a mystery, but I am certain he was not working with anyone else.”

A sense of relief filled the room. “Archmage,” another voice spoke up, a woman towards the front of the group, “does Argantin understand that we are not yet ready for live tests? The focusing crystals have not been calibrated at the correct output levels yet. The entire operation could fail if…”

“Argantin,” Velsyph interrupted, raising a hand, “is All-Knowing. He has said that we may proceed, and therefore we will proceed.”

“But…”

Velsyph cut her off. “We will not speak of this again,” he said. “Now, go home and rest, all of you. This week will be the true test of our labors. When we succeed, the Empire will begin a new age.” With his words, the group of wizards began to disband, leaving the archmages present alone in the chamber.

“Velsyph, what is he thinking?” one of them asked. He had recently been promoted to archmage, specifically for the project. Velsyph couldn’t remember his name. “With Veladion pulling his people out, we have been set behind by months.”

“I know,” Velsyph assured him, “but Argantin is certain that we will still succeed on schedule.”

“Gellinns was able to reach into the core after only minutes of studying our work,” another spoke up. “We’ve been trying to seal it in since we started this project. Could it be that it’s trying to escape?”

“It almost certainly is,” Velsyph countered.

“Then why, by Argantin, are we going forward with this?”

The room fell quiet. Velsyph could sense the fear rolling off the others. He sighed. “I don’t know why Argantin does what he does, or commands us in this way. That is not my responsibility. I am not the All-Knowing. But he has shown me a vision where the dwarves of Tha’Haral descend upon us, and unless we are able to prevent that war from ever taking place, thousands will die. He has told me that this is the only way, that we must succeed.”

“The dwarves have no magic,” the archmage countered. “Their skill is in engineering and machines, not in the ancient knowledge of the World. All that they build is under our control. How could they ever pose such a threat to us?”

“I don’t know,” Velsyph repeated, “but that is not my responsibility.”

“If we fail, the entire city is at risk.”

Veladion sighed. “If we fail, the World is at risk. Let us not fail.”

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