Magicians, true magicians, have a sight beyond sight. With the flow of magic so intensely woven around our souls, we can see the flowing, cascading magical energies of the world. With this sight, we can spot creatures of magical essence, the types of beings the normal populace could never see. That’s not to mean we can always see them, they have the ability to actively cloak themselves from us, though only a truly powerful being can obfuscate from us permanently.
That’s why I was surprised to see him when I arrived at the tavern. There, sitting alone near the door, was a heavily cloaked figure. It’s thin, clothed hands calmly rest on the table and the cowl of his multilayered cloak was pulled so low one had no chance of seeing his face. Not that one would want to see that. Resting across the table was a long, plain obsidian staff.
The wait staff rushed around it, like they were completely oblivious to the figures presence, which I’m sure they were. I avoided staring as best I could, making my way towards the bar counter. Try as I might though, I could feel it’s eyes boring into me. With a heavy sigh, I moved to join the figures table.
We said nothing as we sat, his head moving as if summing me up. This was a whole new level of unnerving for me. After all, this wasn’t a normal reaper, this was Death himself... if it could be given a gender at all.
There are stereotypes regarding Magicians. It is expected that we are old, loaded down with books, scrolls, wands and a old wiry staff, and clothed in a stuffy robe. If anything, everything about my appearance mocked this idea. I wear typical gray pants and a loose white tunic. I have a saddle bag, loaded with my random supplies and a worn saber on my hip, held up by a simple sash belt. And I’m young. I have no beard and my hair is red, short and orderly. My eyes are a soft green, though that’s common with those who have the gift, and my skin is a dark tone indicative of my desert roots.
Death’s voice was the first to break the silence between us. It washed over me like a chilling wind. “Hello Jalal,” I couldn’t help but shiver as my name slipped out from under the cowl.
I drew myself together and glared directly into the darkened hood. “Well hello to you too. I mean I knew I was special, but you special, naw. Though I have to express how honored I am that you would feel the need to reap my kills today.” I leaned back, waving to the bar maid. “I must really be something, eh?”
Settling back into the chair, I returned to staring at the figure most fear to look at. To my surprise, he was gone. I did my best not to look surprised by his absence. “Can I help you?” Nearly jumped out of my skin at the bar maids voice.
I simply ordered a dark ale and sent her away. There are few reasons why Death shows up anywhere. Indeed, we normally sends out the Reapers to take away the souls of the dead. What possibly could cause one such as Death itself to come here, let alone reveal itself to me?
The hours ticked away as I slowly nursed my drink, and then another. Finally my task was coming near to completion. A recent upstart of a gang has shown itself in my town. What’s worse, they attacked that what is close to me. Though I’ll wait till closing time to deal with this trash.
In preparation, I reached out my inner senses to feel the mystical flows of magic the coursed through this region. Magicians tap into currents of magical energies, sometimes called lay-lines. They are like rushing, churning rivers of pure energy. Different lay-lines are a tune to different powers. Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Forest, Void/Space, Light and Darkness make up the flow charts.
While one can use any to cast spells, some are better for certain spells than others. And some are worse than most. Say you want to cast a Wall of Fire, yet you only have Water and Earth in drawing distance. You can do that, while a Wall of Fire is strongest casting from a Fire flow, Earth will do well enough. However, casting Wall of Fire from Water, Fires direct opposite, the spell will be greatly weakened.
That’s not to say the skill of the Magician and their own inner strength have no bearing on the task. Two magicians casting Ice Lance from a Water Flow will conflict, the Magician with the more powerful will has the stronger of the spells.
Around me now is Fire and Wind. I can touch others, it’s just their energies are farther and could falter or take to long to draw upon. I take this time to connect with these Flows, knowing I’ll need their aid soon. It’s only me and the ruffians now. The Bar Maid has stopped serving me, as the wanna-be thugs take up all the woman’s time. After she clears the table and disappears, it’s finally my turn to act.
Raising to my feet swiftly, my mind races out the commands. In an instant, I can feel the warmth of the Fire Flow rush through me. Walls of fire sputter up all around us, blocking anyone from interfering... or leaving.
The group looks to the leader. A curiously thin man in a dark brown cloak. Simply nodding his head, his three followers span out to try and encircle me. This time my body feels lighter as I pull the Wind Flow into me.
“I am Jalal, Magician 7th degree. You and your gang has trespassed against the wrong foe.” My eyes narrow as the air around the two nearest gangsters. In a panic they try to get out of the vortex, but it’s to late. The twisting winds make it impossible to breath. They will be dead soon. “You killed my wife... I seek vengeance.”
Many of the next moments are a blur to me. I know I dispatched the last of the grunts with my Sabre infused with lightning. Though I can’t really remember the conflict with the boss. I remember there was something dark and cold about him. .And that power... that power I’ve never felt before.
That voice again. I open my eyes to the swirling vortex of the Shadow Lands, home to Ghosts and Spirits. I’m floating on a river, and Death sits beside me.
“I’m dead... aren’t I? Should have known. It is rumored you come to collect the Magicians.” I sigh and relax my body as the waters gently rock me. “At least I can be with her again.”
Death’s boney hands rests itself upon my shoulder. “Not yet Jalal, we have business first.” Opening my eyes again, I look up to the true face of Death. It’s not bone and fire, or a rotting corpse as others think. It’s an elderly, androgynous face, and it looks caring yet troubled.
“That man you faced was a Reaper... he’s turned his back on the duties of his birth. Through the mortal lands he seeks power and uses the souls of his victims to got that power. He hopes to rule over the land and bar out the cycles of death. In effect, becoming me.’
It all makes sense now. That power, my fuzzy memories, everything. “Wait... than why wasn’t I..” Before finishing a thought, a new more horrible thought came to me. “My wife.”
“Yes, Jalal. I can restore what has taken of her soul, if the Reaper can be stopped. As I’m sure you know, I can’t directly effect the Reapers I commands, at least not while they exist in the mortal realm. Though I can choose someone to be a champion for me.”
“I will... I’ll make that bastard pay.” I snap back, poison on my tongue.
“That was my hope, I will send you back now. Know you can still die, and I can return you as long as your souls intact. However, I can no longer sense your Death line, so I won’t know you are to die until you do. I can’t save your soul from the Reaper again.”
“I understand, thank you.”
“Of course, that doesn’t mean dying doesn’t come at a cost. Someone will have to die in your place. You will see it, feel it. In time, it can take a toll on your soul. “Be careful Jalal.”
I nod my head, then feel a rush of sleep flood over me. My body drifts back to the mortal world, to some unknown riverbed. My dreams are so real. I see an older man with his daughter walking through the fields of their farms. They are laughing together as the child, no more than sixteen years, uses some Wind magics to tease the birds near by.
I can feel the pain. The shot in the heart of the father. The child rushes to his side, but there is nothing to be done. Out of the sight of the child, Death comes to take the mans soul. As it looks to me, apologetically, I realize what’s happened. This man took my place.
The next thing I know, I’m waking upon a riverbed. A girls voice calling out for help. As my eyes open, my heart nearly stops. Looking down at me is the old fathers daughter.