Archive for category: Stories

Magic’s Price – Paradox

28 Mar
March 28, 2014

I put a writing section in the sidebar here, but I’ve yet to post up any actual writing! Which is a shame. I really enjoy writing, in the last year or so I’ve taken a real interest in the craft skills, I want to put that knowledge into practice, see what comes out.

But I haven’t found the time, not yet, not outside of the writing I’m doing for System Crash, obviously. Getting System Crash out has to take priority, when that’s done I’ll give myself permission to play around with my other hobbies a bit. 😉

For now, here’s an little snipped of story I wrote ages ago (seriously, I think it was 4-5 years ago! Hah!) for Scars of War. I did 3 of these “Magic’s Price” pieces to illustrate something about the game world and mechanics. This one is about the dangers of using magic that manipulates Time. I unashamedly stole the idea of Paradox build up and Paradox Spirits from Mage : The Ascension, the idea being that every time you changed time you’d build up a little bit of paradox. The more paradox you built up, the higher the chance that next time you cast a Time spell, you’d summon a doppelganger Paradox Spirit, a sort of potential version of yourself from the future that wanted to kill you.

These Paradox Spirits were sort of the white blood cells of the time stream, attacking threats to the stability of Time itself. Paradox would slowly drain off from time-manipulating magi, but using too much at once would rapidly increase the danger. This would serve as a narrative-grounded balancing mechanism for the kind of powerful magic that could see you freezing time itself.

Would have been interesting to see how it played in-game. Ah well, one day. 😉

Enjoy!

*****

As one, the hunters of the Order burst from their hiding places behind stacked crates and piles of refuse, weapons tarred so as not to reflect the light and prematurely alert their prey.

Not that it mattered. Kalus had known they were waiting for him from the time that he’d stepped into the alleyway that had led him to the grimy, isolated dead-end where he usually met his agent. The perfect place to stage an ambush. His man was probably dead, he’d need to find a replacement, curse them.

Focusing his will, Kalus began to chant softly, his eyes on the the one with the red cloak, clearly the leader, as he took aim at Kalus with a throwing dart. Kalus had heard of this tactic being employed by hunters before. The dart would be poisoned, something to cloud the wits and make it difficult for a spell-worker to bring their powers to bear. Unconcerned, both by this and the other two warriors closing on him, Kalus continued to chant.

In a smooth, practised motion, the Captain set the dart to flight. Kalus felt the strands of fate thrumming around him, the subtle flow of the time stream as it channeled the infinite possibilities of the future into the concrete reality of the now. The spell he’d cast when first he’d sensed the danger waiting for him hovered like a lurked spider, plucking at those threads, shaping probability to Kalus’ will. The dart flew past him, missing his ear by a finger’s width.

Lifting his arms, Kalus’ chant became a roar of triumph, even as the two hunters brought their blades down on him. Magic lashed out from Kalus in an invisible wave, those deadly weapons slowing to near stand-still, the hunters held fast as if insects trapped in honey.

Unhindered by his own magic, Kalus stepped out of their path. With a small smile he stepped behind the one on the left, grunting with exertion as he pushed him into the path of his fellow’s blade. Then, unsheathing his knife, he turned and casually drew it across the second warrior’s neck. Blood welled lazily from the wound, droplets escaping his throat like lazy bumblebees taking flight. When the spell ended the man would feel his life blood gushing forth at the very moment that he witnessed his companion impaling himself on his sword. Delighted with his own artistry, Kalus turned from the two to gaze at their captain. He, like his soldiers, had been trapped in the temporal distortion field. He’d managed to draw his blade only a few inches in the time it had taken Kalus to deal with other two. Contemplating the most fitting manner of death for this fool, this insignificant insect who’d thought to challenge one who wielded Time itself as a weapon, Kalus moved toward the man.

He’d taken only two strides when he felt a quivering tension run through those invisible strands around him. He stopped, casting about for the source even as he felt that tension growing, growing into a great, tearing agony that scoured all thought from his mind, driving him to his knees as his field of slowed time collapsed around him. The two hunters behind him met their shrieking ends as the captain freed his sword in a sudden ringing of steel, spitting curses as he saw the fate that had befallen his men.

But the pain wasn’t over yet, it continued to build towards a climax that threatened to shatter Kalus’ sanity. The air writhed before his eyes like a thing alive, heavy with the scent of ozone. A form began to take shape between Kalus and the captain, indistinct at first, then suddenly snapping into focus. With growing dread, Kalus looked up at…himself. A perfect copy of himself, smiling lazily down at him.

No, not a perfect copy. There was grey in this Kalus’ hair, deeper wrinkles around the eyes. This was himself as he would be in years to come.

The moment of paralysed shock passing, the captain leaped forward, sword raised. Kalus’ doppelganger turned and casually raised a hand in response, force lashing out at the captain, flinging him back into the piles of refuse. He lay where he landed, twisted, unmoving. The other Kalus turned back to look at his kneeling self, that same familiar grin twisting his lips, arcane light still dancing in his palm. They stared at each other, the man on the floor and the one standing, while around them the threads of destiny danced and whispered of things that could be, that should be and that would never be.

Despairing, Kalus attempted to form a ward even as his clone lifted his arm to hurl death at him. White-hot fury tore through his feeble defense, picking him up and hurling him down the alleyway, the impact of his landing leaving him stunned. Face pressed against the cobbles, muscles spasming, Kalus could do nothing as he heard the other’s footsteps approaching. A whisper of steel announced a dagger being drawn, almost certainly a clone to the one Kalus kept on his belt. A finely-crafted boot rolled him onto his back, and he stared helplessly into his own brown eyes. The blade hung above him for a long moment, then plunged into his chest.

Agony lanced through him, tore apart his focus as he tried to form a spell of healing. Time, if only he had time!

With a final shudder, Kalus’ time ran out. And as he died, so too did the Paradox spirit begin to fade out, dissipating like fog in sunlight. The wounds that Kalus had inflicted on the tapestry of time with his magic had begun to heal, soon it would be as if they’d never been.