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  • Writer's pictureJon Huber

The Keepsake pt. 7

A man in a large black robe wanders the dark streets of a small city, he does not stray too far from the shadows as this is the only place it seems he is welcome. Things such as eating, sleeping, or even having to stay warm are of no concern to him, he is free of these restraints. Everyone the man has ever known has passed away as he has easily outlived them by decades. The clothes that hang off his frail frame are tattered and worn, his hair and beard are long and gray, both looking brittle and matted. The dark pointed hat that adorns his head is pulled down low, with the wide brim shielding his ash-covered face from the world. The scar tissue that has developed on his eyes is thick, but not as thick as his distaste for his fellow man.

When the great deity spat the wizard back into his realm, it cared little for where the man ended up, it simply granted the wizard his request and sent him back. The wizard ended up outside a small village and slowly managed to make his way inside, still adjusting to the darkness of his new existence. One street ran through the center of town and all the shops and businesses were located there; this is also the place our faithful wizard had the misfortune of stumbling upon. The people of this quaint little town were wary of outsiders of any kind, let alone a towering wizard dressed in all black. His reception might have been warmer if it wasn’t for the state of his staff and the resulting filth on his skin. Even in small villages the practice of magic was known, it was also common knowledge that any wizard that carried a black staff is surely a practitioner of the dark arts. It wasn’t long before the people of the town took up in protest and drove the man out of the village, spitting and cursing throughout the unpleasant event. He was warned to never return, as the townspeople made it clear that next time, they wouldn’t be so polite. Once removed from the village the wizard was unsure of what to do, to strip himself of his staff would mean certain death, but to keep it wasn’t much better. The world in which he lived was full of tales of the gods, of good magic and bad magic, and of the consequences felt in the afterlife; while all were mere speculation, this governed the way many people acted. If a man were to practice black magic, he had surely disobeyed the gods, therefore they turned his staff black and stained his skin. These evil sorcerers are to be avoided at all costs, as you wouldn’t want their misfortune cast upon you.

Our faithful wizard wandered through the vast forest that covered the land outside of that small village. His perception of time escaped him as the forest was always the same unwelcoming temperature and he no longer had the sun as a dial. We know his time in the forest to be years upon years, enough for the world which the man knew to disappear. Any strength which the wizard had was taken from him mentally and physically, and then some. He was but a shell of fear, self-loathing, and disdain when he finally ran into the city once more, and even though the forest had broken the man’s spirit, he had avoided the thing that he feared the most, death.

Once gaining his bearings in the city, after multiple unpleasant run-ins with the locals, the wizard decided it would be best to remain unseen until he could figure out what his life would look like moving forward. The man cast spells on himself, spells which were normally used for small periods of time. These spells were supposed to help sorcerers traverse universes without the constraints and limitations that their earthly vessels put on them. The wizard removed his need to eat or excrete any waste from his body, while this made his ability to remain unseen easier, the spell used over a long period of time made a person’s insides burn and ache constantly. The spell which removed a person’s need to sleep made it so the wizard would never lose his lifeline, his staff, but the repercussions were sluggish and slow movement and the inability to muster large amounts of energy. These unpleasantries were minuscule in comparison to facing the citizens of the town, they cared not for an old dirty wizard who carried a staff of soot, and they showed no mercy to the man. He was unable to practice his magic, unable to co-exist among his fellow peers, and he was trapped in the personal hell of blackness that was his impairment. The years melted away, while the wizard hid in alleyways and shuffled along the outskirts of town. This is where we yet again catch up with our lonely, faithful wizard.

The man wanders along the fringes of the main street, he now moves effortlessly between crevasse and corner, as his time spent memorizing the streets has been plentiful. Most of the wizard’s days are spent gathering supplies, his plan is to move into the forest and erect a small workshop where he will live and continue his practice. This process has taken years as the man does not wish to return to civilization after his departure. However, the ingredients and tools he needs are difficult to come across even when one has money, let alone when they must be commandeered. Keeping them in the forest outside the city, the wizard slowly gathers materials and is drawing closer to having all that he needs. On this particular day, the sorcerer is uneasy as he can sense something amiss in the air. While attempting to quickly dart across the street the man is stopped dead in his tracks as he hears something he hasn’t heard in over a century, his name. From the lips of a young man, his name is being called out. The wizard turns his blank gaze towards the voice. He has heightened his sense of hearing by continually chewing on Banta root and he can tell the man is not alone. A group of 10 or 15 people march towards the vulnerable wizard, who is still standing motionless in the street. When they finally reach him, the young man grabs the sorcerer by the robes of his chest and violently drags him to the nearest wall, pinning him against it.

The young man informs the wizard that the magic community is aware of his presence and that they feel there is no place for a performer of necromancy in their world. They had been following the wizard for some time and even found the wizard's stash of goods, which they were currently disposing of. The wizard knows that the community would never use such force in public, they have a reputation they must upkeep. A fear begins to run through the wizard as the thought that this may be the same militant group that killed his beloved professor stirs in his mind. The group of witnesses slowly become restless as the altercation between the two men has yet to reach its climax, they begin to spit and shout at the wizard, this robs him of his ability to access the situation through his hearing. As the wizard moves to his next most helpful sense, he realizes that the young man now only has one hand on the sorcerer’s shoulder. Once this clues into the wizard, he feels the bunching of his robes near his midsection as the man presses a blade against his torso. Once the younger man knows that the wizard feels this piece of steel against his abdomen, he pauses to absorb his reaction. The wizard allows his eyes to close and the pale crystal atop his staff begins to glow with an ever-intensifying radiance. The mob grows silent as the jewel continues to emit an almost blinding gleam. The dagger hits the ground at the same moment the young man releases his grip of the wizard’s garments, the young man’s hands now reside around his neck as he has the inability to take a breath. First clawing at his throat and then turning to the crowd with a purple bloated face and bulging eyes, he neither knows what is happening or how to stop it. Now coughing and spitting the man falls to one knee as he begins to become dizzy. Our faithful wizard hears the sounds of the man’s struggles and slowly the illumination from his staff begins to diminish. A deep breath is shot into the man’s lungs as he falls backwards onto his rear, now attempting to replenish the oxygen that was deprived from him.

As the wizard releases his sorcery from around the man’s neck, he hangs his head as he again must access his situation and attempt to keep himself safe. You see, the wizard can never die but he can be killed, if the young man were to have driven the dagger into the wizard and done a great deal of damage, the wizard’s sorcery can only heal him to a limited extent. This was the one condition of his conjuration, if the sorcerer’s physical body were no longer able to sustain its soul, then the man would die. Any minor injury or ailment could easily be fixed, the wizard could even cure himself of cancer or tuberculosis, but if the man where to be crushed under a rock or have his heart plucked from his chest, his agreement with the gods could not save him and he would be freed of his covenant. While standing before the crowd, this thought runs through the wizard’s head for the millionth time, and he knows he must protect himself at all costs.

Suddenly, a rock strikes the wizard in the chin, leaving a large gash on his face and making the decision for him. The angry pack is furious at the sorcerer’s actions and are hungry for redemption, they begin throwing any objects they can find at him, yelling and screaming, spitting and cursing. Quickly, dipping into a nearby alley and running as fast as he dares, the wizard uses his internal map to get him to the outskirts of the city as quickly as possible. Even once reaching the city limits, he refuses to slow down, the mob isn’t gaining on him, but he can still hear the muffled yells in the distance. Not willing to take any chances the wizard runs and runs until his frail frame reminds him of the limitations of his body. Now far from the town, any fear of the mob catching him dissipates and the wizard stands wheezing in the secluded side road he chose to follow.

Having caught his breath, the man now falls to his knees, he has exhausted not only his body but every resource available to him and he has nothing. There is no one on earth that cares he exists, he owns nothing but the robe on his back and the ashy staff, and he has nowhere to go. Tears begin to stream down the man’s face as he lifts his gaze to the sky, silently cursing the world, the people in it, and not only the god with whom he made the covenant, but every god. As he sits in a pile on the ground, his being feels an immense presence in front of it. The wizard subdues his sobs and listens, feeling the overwhelming draw of the mystery that stands directly in front of him, he has found a place to stay, a home, a mountain. Slowly he saunters over to the foot of the enormous pinnacle, tears begin to fall from the wizard’s face once more. As he reaches the foliage at the base of the mountain his legs give way, and he falls face first into the soft warm moss that resides there. Broken and battered from the ambush of the annoyed mob, smiling as he never has before, the wizard has found his home, and for the time being he is safe.

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