“…there were four moons in the sky. The four daughters of the sun god, Azrakh. Red coloured, Eranth; the blue Olynth and Silann the white, fairest of them all. Valaren the black, favored by her father adorned the sky by his side at day along with Eranth. On midsummer each year, the sisters would come together and celebrate the birth of…”
– Extract from the Igniz Ras’pell, A human epic, ~6000 B.C.
I tried for the umpteenth time. Smoke curled up from my fingers but no fireball came out. I was trying to cast magic after learning from the magic books lent by grandma. I did ask her how I could do magic, but she simply said that she never learnt it formally. She tried and tried and finally did it. It seems to be a matter of feeling.
According to the book, Sangraal was suffused with a mysterious, invisible particle. Known as Aurora particle, it was everywhere. Theories were numerous about its origin, but no conclusive evidence was found for any of the theories. Whenever magic was used, Aurora particles would be utilized by the caster and transformed into magic. However, the aurora particles didn’t disappear but merely transmuted to what they called Exhausted Aurora particles which make up the magic.
Theorists proposed that the Exhausted Aurora or EA underwent a cyclical change to replenish the Aurora otherwise they would be exhausted. Anyway, Humans used magic by absorbing the available Aurora in the environment and transmuting it into magic. What the book doesn’t tell you is that it’s bloody difficult to do.
Apparently, every species on this planet had an inbuilt magic circuit in their heart. They could use that to issue commands to the Aurora particle, or AP entering their body to transmute into the type of magic they wanted to cast.
I don’t know if I even have a Magic circuit.
That’s what I had thought until I had tried to chant the magic. Nothing had happened at first few tries but my palm had grown hot. After about a hundred failed chants, here I was with some smoke puffing up my hands.
I sighed. “Harharl Infigare!(1)” I shouted, exasperated and desperate.
Nothing happened. Of course not. It was just an anime.
“Rigel! Stop! What are you doing!” Arin shouted from behind me and ran towards me. She dropped all the herbs she was carrying and broke into a fast run in panic, her face ashen.
Why was she panicking so?
“Err…fireball mag..” I was cut off mid-reply.
“That’s not what I am asking. Why are you trying to cast without a conduit?” she demanded while inspecting my hand.
“Conduit?” I asked.
“You asterhunkel, why didn’t you read properly? The Aurora converts right after you let it go out of your body, so what do you think happens when you are not casting long distance magic?”
Oh shit. I would get burned.
My eyes went wide when I realized. Arin guessed that I understood the implications so she just arched her eyebrows at me.
“Seriously, are you really 4 years older than me?” She chided. “Even kids know this”.
“How do I get a conduit?” I asked.
“For you…you have to buy it” she said after thinking a while, “Lets go to the river while I treat your hand”
We started walking. Now that I notice, my hands did sting a bit. The attempts had burnt off a thin slice of skin from my palm.
Today was another of my rest days. I had come to collect herbs with Arin, as usual on my free days. I got a small compensation every week for becoming a village guard, so I thought of paying some back to grandma for taking care of me. However, I knew she won’t take anything, so I usually bought groceries and stuff without telling her first and presented it. Grandma Wasslia did object when I brought stuff home, but she was happy too. She would kiss my head every time I did that, as if her own grandson had done something nice.
I was really lucky to meet someone like her when I came here.
Arin and I sat on a boulder beside the stream. The said stream flowed under the hill, with its origin somewhere in the Ishkal mountains in the north. The stream was called Natril and was rich in fish and other river life forms.
Arin dipped my palm in the cool river water, washing away the soot and grime. Then she mashed up some herbs growing beside the river and applied on my hands.
“Keep the herbs in the place with your hands. I am not going to tear up my robe to make a poultice” Arin instructed me.
“Hai hai, Ojou-sama” I replied jokingly. She looked at me with suspicion in her eyes at the Ojou-sama.
“You don’t know how to compliment a lady properly, do you?” She said.
“If I see a lady, I will” I replied with a straight face.
“No lunch for you today”, she was incensed.
We sat at the bank, watching the river flow by. It was relaxing. The sound of the river mingled with the sounds of RiverSong shells in Arin’s hair. The girl and the river watched each other silently, as having an invisible dialogue between themselves.
I had always wondered , but Arin became uncharacteristically quiet whenever we were at the river. She would stare at the river without getting tired. I wondered what she was thinking.
“You know, Rigel, I feel like I can be at peace when I am near the river” She suddenly spoke up. She shivered while speaking, “After my parents…died, I had no one to talk to. The kids made fun of me, hated me while I kept crying all the time”
Arin’s voice had become heavy with emotion, quavering. “ This is where I escaped to when I remembered my parents and cried a lot. No one saw me crying here. The River didn’t demand from me to talk, it was happy to talk to me, flowing by me while I watched”
I could only manage to listen in silence. This was the first time she had spoken about her parents. I wouldn’t have guessed that Arin hurt so much underneath.
“I talked to myself all the time to stave off the loneliness, but this river gave me peace.” Tears glistened on her red cheeks.
Before I could do something, Arin wiped her tears and collected herself, “Sorry for saying all these. Rigel, I am glad I met you. You remind me of the river, always listening to my ramblings” she said with moist cheeks and glistening eyes.
I stood up and walked away from her. I could feel her eyes following me. A few white flowers bloomed on the bank, a little away from us. I picked one and returned. It was the same flower that I had unintentionally given Arin on the first day.
I crouched down beside her holding the white magnolia like flower in my hand. She seemed to understand my intentions and tensed a bit. After just a moment, she seemed to relax and turned her head, a shy smile on her lips. I planted the flower on her black hair and plopped down beside her, leaning on the boulder.
I couldn’t say anything. So, the girl with river in her hair and the boy who dreamt of death sat side by side, looking at the river. No words needed to be said. Because their conversation was one of silence. A silence of three parts, the boy, the girl and the trickling river.
I found out the problem about why I can’t cast. I couldn’t control and properly channel the Aurora particle inside my body yet. Grandma scolded me when she heard my reckless attempts. It seems that uncontrolled AP could sometimes invoke magic inside the body, causing the spellcaster to die. She had heard of a mage whose AP had run rampant inside his body, invoking the spell for fire. His whole right hand had carbonized from the inside. He lived, but lost his hand. I decided to concentrate on AP channeling for now.
The magic for humans in this world seemed to be divided into Elemental magic and Soul magic. Everything that had to do with elements was classified as former and rest of the magic like summoning or healing as the latter. There was no classification like Light or Dark magic. It all involved on the intention of the caster. The same summon spell was used both when conjuring undead and when conjuring holy beasts like the Unicorn.
I continued studying magic while I improved my swordsmanship. I was finally green-lighted to go on subjugation and extermination quests with the village guard corps to suppress the monsters.
Gustaf divided the 15 members into 3 groups of 5 each. We were going to suppress a mob of monsters known as Kivalas, a group of four legged dog like monsters. They had a reddish brown shaggy coat of fur and razor sharp claws. What made them really dangerous was their tendency to roam in packs and call out for reinforcement when faced with danger. More than a few villagers had fallen prey to their vicious fangs.
I didn’t know what Gustaf expected by putting me and Karro in the same group.
Was he expecting rivals-turn- friends shounen shit?
For today, we were given actual swords and weapons instead of the blunt training ones. Everyone was eager to earn some reputation for themselves. The three groups walked at a brisk pace, separated from each other by 50 metres in an inverted arrowhead formation. We were walking towards the Nurengraz forest, located on both sides of the road that leads to the next town, Haven.
We were walking through the forest when suddenly Gustaf put up his hands in a fist, signaling us to stop. He conveyed by the hand signals that were drilled into us everyday that he had detected some enemies. Sounds of metal clanking softly could be heard as everyone readied their weapons. I unsheathed my sword and unhitched the unadorned shield made of thick wood covered with leather. It was okay with fangs, but bad at blocking metal weapons.
Howls reverberated through the trees and the underbrush rustled. By the howls, there were at least five Kivalas. Sweat trickled down my temple, as I tightened the grip on my sword. All at once, the Kivalas bounded into view, leaping up from the thick bushes. The battle had started.
Gustaf barked orders and the inverted arrowhead expanded it’s wings, allowing the Kivalas to run inside the middle of the V. Though they were pack animals, they did not have much intelligence to gauge the trap. The men surrounded the Kivalas and bore down on them with their weapons.
Our group of five had taken the left flank. Two Kivalas bore down on us, snapping at the vanguards me and Shayn. We two used shields, so we took the burnt of the attack, the Kivalas slamming against our raised shields. These dogs were strong.
The monsters snapped their jaws, their razor claws trying to break the shield. The monsters tried to jump over the shields by climbing it. Karro and Grant swung their swords, trying to disrupt the Kivalas. Karro’s sword went through the right flank of one of the monsters, warm blood splashing down on my face and hands.
The hurt Kivala howled, it’s ferocity increased to manic levels. Illya was trying to poke out the eye of the other Kivala by his spear. The monster easily dodged it and jumped up at him, using Shayn’s shield as a springboard. My blood went cold. Shayn screamed.
“Karro!” I shouted. He looked at me and understood my intention in a flash.
“Crazy fucker”, He mumbled, “Go”. I slammed my shield up at the chin of the Kivala in front of me, that was trying to climb over the shield to get to us. The Kivala made an odd sound as blood and spittle went flying out of its maw when I slammed the shield under its chin. Then I got up and ran backwards to help Shayn, while Karro held off the Kivala.
The Kivala was eating Illya’s hand as he screamed. His eyes had gone white as he howled with all his might. The Kivala just continued to chomp on his arm, as sounds of bones being crunched emanated from it. Illya hadn’t been able to block the Kivala when it had come too close for the effective range of the long spear. The Kivala had simply slammed the wooden spear aside and clamped its jaws on Illya.
I ran and slammed against the Kivala’s flank with full momentum. The shield was put up near my face, not letting the Kivala attack me. It went flying and slammed against a tree trunk. I walked over Shayn, setting up a defensive posture in front of him. The Kivala jumped at me using the tree trunk for leverage. I put up the shield and it slammed against it. I used my sword to reach around and pierce it’s flank. The monster let out an enraged howl and jerked violently. The sword went flying away due to the momentum. My hands went numb and I gulped.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
The Kivala, enraged beyond anything, bit at the wood shield. It’s sharp fangs pierced the wood and…stopped midway. The Kivala had snagged its teeth on the wooden shield. I held the shield with all my might as the monster shook it violently, trying to dislodge it, while I took out the hunting knife Grandma-Wasslia had gifted me.
I slammed down the knife on the Kivala’s eye and held it there, screwing it in until it reached the brain. Warm blood spurted out of the wound, splashing my face again, the salty blood smelling of iron.
“Fuck you” I shouted as the Kivala spasmed while taking its last breath. A strange pall had come over me as I felt intense bloodlust within myself. It didn’t have anything to do with revenge or defence. I wanted my enemy dead as I bathed in its blood, simple as that. I wanted to dominate, to have their fates in my hand. My body trembled and I took a deep breath. Then I charged.
While I rushed past, I noticed that Karro and the others had finished their Kivalas. I jumped into the fray at the other flank of the formation. Only one Kivala remained. It was proving to be troublesome as it shook off the weapons that had pierced it. I jumped down in front of it and slammed my shield on its skull. I kept slamming and slamming till it had deformed, grey matter oozing out of its ears.
The battle was done.
Everyone looked at me strangely. Gustaf came over and punched me on the gut. “What the” I managed to groan as I keeled over.
“Your own safety takes priority first…I believe I told you that” His face was like black thunderclouds, his voice shook in rage, “Also, you lost to bloodlust. You will die if you do not discipline yourself in battle”
“Sorry” I managed to croak. Fuck. Really what was I doing? It felt so good…killing them
He ruffled my hair, “Thank you for protecting Illya. Because of you, he will live”.
We stayed there for a few more hours, cleaning up the bodies and treating Illya’s wounds. The elders dismantled the monster’s corpses, stripping it of useable materials like claws, fangs and fur.
However, what was really valuable was the Core.
Core was a rough crystal found at the centre of the monster’s heart. It was said that this was the magic circuit of the monsters. It grew throughout its life, absorbing and storing AP like a battery. Unless a monster died of unnatural causes, the Core would slowly grow, crystallizing the heart and ultimately killing the monster when the heart totally converts to a Core.
“Good work” I said to Karro honestly. “Yeah, you too” He replied a bit warmly. Maybe the battle had brought us close together.
So, everytime you have a fight with a friend, don’t fret! Bring him to a life threatening adventure! Want to grow close to the girl of your dreams? Don’t worry! drop yourselves together in a cage of feral beasts!
I was given a small green, rough cylindrical crystal, tapered into fine points at both ends. It came from the Kivala I had killed defending Illya. It was my reward. I saw something move from the corner of my eye and spotted Gustaf handing out another green crystal towards me.
“Take it. Its from the other one you killed”
“But other also participated in it. I just finished it off” I said.
“It’s alright, everyone wants you to have it as a reward for your good performance” he replied while smiling, “Besides, we were having a hard time and this crystal will help you grow”.
Apparently, there were many uses for the Cores. One can go to a Church or a Soulcaster to fuse the Cores to one’s own being, making them powerful. However this process often resulted in failures and sever backlashes, so it wasn’t popular. Most people went to an Enchanter Blacksmith to fuse the Cores to their equipment, making it stronger. There was always the option of selling them for money too. Lot of magical equipment and tools needed Cores to function.
When I asked Gustaf if I could fuse them to my weapon, he said that the village couldn’t do it. I needed to head over to the nearest town, Haven for the process. I was told to wait after the Midsummer Festival when some people from the guard corps would go to repair and resupply the corps.
One more thing that I had noticed was when I killed a monster, I could feel some invisible wave flow into me. I don’t know what it was, but I asked others and they said they didn’t receive anything of the sort. This was probably a hallucination brought on by the excitement of the bloodlust.
After that day, we went on Kivala subjugation quests regularly. In the course of that, Karro and I had become fast friends, spending a lot of time together. I knew he was jealous of how close how Arin and I was, he never let that come between our friendship. He even tried to teach me his magic technique of coating his blade with fire. But, my AP channeling was too coarse for it to work.
It had been almost 2 months since I came to this world. I now knew some swordmanship and very little magic. I had saved up a little from the quests, with 21 Cores to my name. I planned to kill the gods of this world, but for that I needed power. I didn’t know it then, but not having power would cost me dearly.
As for my skills, here is the status window…NOT. This isn’t that kind of story, people. This is not a VRMMO or those fantasy stories where powers are so easily got and conveniently displayed in a menu list. And yes, I am breaking the 4th wall, and yes by mentioning the 4th wall, I am breaking it again.
I looked up at the sky while returning from my 11th subjugation quest. Somewhere, near the forest we had just been, Kivalas were howling. Maybe they felt pain too, when we killed their families?
I wondered how my family back on earth were doing.
Arin and grandma were waiting for me that evening with worry on their faces. News had traveled that a few people had died this time, so they were very tensed. I could see dried tears on Arin’s cheeks.
I sat with Arin on the steps of the patio. Like always; the Faeler, those bottled lights, were shining; spilling their soft yellowish green light on the garden. I was chatting with Arin about all things that mattered and things that did not. I felt like Arin was getting close to me day by day.
“I am dying to the eat the surmar tomorrow” Arin was saying with a glazed look in her eyes.
“Is that so”, I crouched near the flowers with the colour of fire, growing near the patio.
These flowers were called Vertes, or the stealer of emotions. They glowed like fire at night, taking in the AP and diffusing them in form of light. At any rate, they were breathtaking. Like little balls of fire, pulsating and living. The most astonishing part about the flowers was that it could change the colour of its glow depending on the emotions of the person nearby. For this, it was used in trials and torture to verify the truth.
Even flowers in this world are dangerous.
“Don’t even think of that”, Arin was stern, “Do not be the kind of man who gives a girl flowers from her own garden”
Truly, even flowers in this world are dangerous.
The Vertes glowed a bright orange. I wondered whose emotions they were.
Later that night, I felt someone enter my room. I opened my eyes carefully, and saw Arin tip toeing beside my bed and promptly slamming her hands on my mouth, so that I couldn’t shout.
She motioned me to shush by putting her finger on her lips.
I sat up on my bed slowly, and in a dry voice whispered, “Please let me go, Arin-sama…”
“I am not here to rape you, Rigel” she stared at me with unamused eyes.
“I know. So what do you want?”
“Come with me. I need to pick some Lorras flowers for tomorrow and you don’t want a dainty maiden alone out at night, do you?” She explained.
“Sure. Where is the dainty maiden I need to guard?” I asked.
“Keep that up, and no girls will dance with you at the festival”
Tomorrow was the Midsummer Festival, the only night when all 3 moons were in the sky. The villagers would have a huge fire and dance around it. People would cook food in that fire and sing and dance. It was the biggest festival in these parts of the Kingdom, so everyone was looking forward to it.
Lorras flowers were these small white blossoms that grew only at night and withered at dawn. I could guess why she wanted those. They were used to make perfumes.
She collected Lorras, while I just looked up at the sky. The constellations were unfamiliar. Even the stars were different. Fuck I can’t even say that we look up at the same sky like a shoujo protag. (2) I really wondered how my family was doing without me.
“Come with me, I want to show you something”, Arin said while beckoning me from the top of the hill. I followed her. Blue-white moonlight filtered down the shady trail we were walking on. Arin’s white tunic flashed in and out of view through the shadows. I felt like I was chasing a specter.
We came upon the flowing Natril at a sort of a guarded bank. Boulders separated that part of the bank from view. Tall trees ringed the bank while the white magnolia flowers bloomed in a white carpet in the bank. Hundreds of those flowers reared towards the sky, as if absorbing the moonlight.
Arin and I sat on the bank, while she kept looking at the flowing river in moonlight. Shadow and light played hide and seek on the surface. We were silent. The river always made us silent.
Arin suddenly spoke up and said, “Rigel, do you know the story behind how rivers came to be?”
“No, I don’t” I said honestly.
“Once upon a time, there was an Elven maid, the fairest among all. Her name was Sylvanna. She fell in love with the son of a commoner, Rashel. They loved each other like the earth loves the sky. But their love was not to be. Sylvanna was the princess of the Elf kingdom. The king confined her in a tower, devoid of light. Rashel was exiled to the far off seas, where he rowed the ship as a laborer. A year went by, Sylvanna pined for her love, in the tower of darkness, alone. At last, she wasn’t able to endure anymore and tried to plunge a dagger to her heart. She was stopped by the Elven goddess of love. She appeared before Sylvanna, drawn by her passion for her lover. The Elven goddess asked if she wanted to be with Rashel, leaving everything she was and would be. Sylvanna consented without a second thought. The goddess changed Sylvanna into water and made her flow from the tower. The Sylvanna that was now a river charged through the mountains, the forests and the plains, finally plunging into the seas where her beloved Rashel toiled. When the river had plunged into the seas, Rashel knew that his Sylvanna was no more. Out of grief, he plunged into the seas, ending his life. The sea and the river met, joining each other for eternity. That is how, the first river came to be” Arin spoke while looking at some far away place, lost.
“That is a sad story, Arin” I replied.
“Yes. But not for Rashel and Sylvanna” Arin smiled, “I too want to reach the seas, where my parents are”
Once again, I didn’t know how to comfort Arin. I just looked at the girl made of condensed moonlight. There was only one thing I could do, for now.
I picked one of the white magnolia looking flowers and presented it to her. When in doubt with a girl, always give a flower!
It was as if someone electrified Arin. She shook like a cold blizzard had blown over her. She asked me with watery eyes, “Do you know what these flowers are called?”
“No, I don’t” What the…what’s happening?
“These are Sillanerna”, she said holding it in her hands, “The spawn of Sillann”.
Arin once again faced the river, however this time she had a smile on her lips. Her cheeks were dyed deep red, and her face downcast, her black locks hiding her face as if to avoid the gaze of the trespassing moon.
I remembered thinking at the time; God…this woman is beautiful.
Somewhere in the forest, the pack of Kivalas kept howling through the night, as if they were mourning for the dead.
- Reference to the fire invocation spell from Magi: Labyrinth of Magic and Magi 2: Kingdom of Magic
- Reference to a line by Takasu Ryuji from Toradora Light Novel.
Note: The last part of this chapter’s title is my homage to the epic fantasy series, Malazan Book Of The Fallen. Moon’s Spawn is the floating fortress of the Tiste Andii in Malazan. No part of Malazan plays any part in my story. I took the just the name because it was too beautiful
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