Free Story: The Mourning Of The Magician

Dawn of another day. The redness warmed the eastern horizon, as the last true magician in the world greeted the new day, as he had greeted so many before.

He felt old. He was old, far older than anybody else who was still alive. Magic had a way of preserving a person’s body – at least if you were a real magician, rather than those charlatans of the Magic Circle.

He felt the rays of the sun on his face, as he closed his eyes, and felt his power restored, for at least one more day. Another day, in a world where magic was almost dead. He was the last person keeping the tradition alive. And when he died there would no longer be any magic in the world.

That was not the way which it once had been. Once he had been one among, if not many, at least a few. The Magi had been found all over the world, using their magic to help and guide mankind. Well, most of them had. There had always been a few bad apples. But they had all died, or been killed.

What was his name? He could no longer recall what name he was supposed to be using at the moment, he had used so many over the years. He had it written down somewhere. But it wasn’t his real name. Real names had power, so you did not reveal them, otherwise people might have power over you.

Not that he had any enemies anymore. The last one had died a long, long time ago. He had been called… well, his enemy had been the Red Magus, a man who had changed his name many times over the years. He had started out as an enemy, back in the old times when duels in magic had often ended in death. But, by the end, he had been nothing more than a rival, although never a friend.

The Red Magus had died of old age. The magic had failed him, and he had died. Or perhaps he had simply lost the will to live.

Five hundred years ago he had fought with the Red Magus, one of the great fights of the legends of magic. It had been high on the Pennines, during the heart of a thunderstorm. Had they brought the storm on purpose? The old wizard could no longer recall. It was possible that the clash of mystical energies had been enough to cause the storm.

Thunder had rumbled above the two of them, and lightning had flashed, as the two mages had shouted their hatred for each other. They had hurled their own forms of lightning at each other. Magic, pure magic, had been their weapon of choice, forced into balls and hurled at the other.

What had the fight been about? The old Magus could not recall. It must have been of deadly importance to them at the time, for them to have sought to kill the other. But what did it matter now, when all wonder had leached out of the world?

The old man wished that he was in the past, before that fight had begun. He would not fight now. Now, whatever the argument was, he would resolve it through peaceful means.

He had fought with all manner of strange things, in the past, not only with the Red Magus. He had done battle with woodwoses who had lived wild in the woods, and had worn no clothing at all. He had slain several of those, and now he wished that he hadn’t. Back in the past he had thought that they were nothing but savages. But now he knew a lot more than he had before, and that those woodwoses had been the last members of an offshoot of mankind which was now extinct. No doubt, if some of them were still alive, they would have been named as Homo neanderthalensis; or possibly even Homo erectus. It did not matter now that they were all dead.

He had fought against dragons in the east, in the area called Anatolia. He had sought out those creatures, like the vain fool which he had been in the past. He had desired to be seen as a great hero, like St George of legend. But it had almost got him killed. It had perhaps been the closest that he had come to death, before now.

The creatures had been like huge lizards, but without wings, as some legends had given them. Including the tail the dragon had been some thirty feet long.

He had fought it with magic, fearing that it would breathe fire on him. But no fiery breath issued out of the creature’s mouth. So he had moved in for the kill, drawing the sword which he had carried at the time, thinking that it was almost too easy.

But, although he had slain the beast, it had bitten him. He had not thought anything was wrong, initially. But there must have been some venom in the saliva of the beast, for he had been struck down with great illness, and for a while he had thought that he would perish. That had been the last time that he had gone looking for dragons. They were nearly all gone now, anyway. All of the legendary creatures were gone, or going, just in the same way that magic was slipping away from the world. Perhaps one could not survive without the other.

He could no longer recall his training, beyond the fuzziest of details. He knew that he had been trained in the secrets of the ancients, and that it had been some old man with a beard who had taught him how to wield those powerful mystical forces. But he could not recall the name of that ancient wizard, or in what era he had been trained, or even in what country that training had taken place. The magician did not know what nationality he was. He did not know where he had been born.

Nationality was fluid, anyway, depending on the time. People who once might have called themselves Pomeranian now defined themselves as being Polish. Picts had become Scots. There was one Italian nation, replacing Venetia and Lombardy and the other kingdoms of the past.

He had seen empires rise and empires fall in his too long life. He had travelled in the great empire of Lithuania, who few people outside of Lithuania now seemed to be aware about. He had journeyed in Poland when that land had been great. But not only had both of those empires ended, but the countries, for a while, had even been wiped off the map.

He looked across the sea, at the great American Empire, and he knew that it would soon falter and fade away, replace by something else. It was the nature of empires to fail. Even the great empire of Rome had ended, in the end, collapsing in on itself, unable to resist the ‘barbarians’ from outside.

The magician walked back into his house, away from the dawn. He had what might have been described as a hut, high up on the eastern flanks of the Pennines. There were no other houses close to that of the magician. But that was the way that he liked it. In his old age he did not want other people around him. Not normal people, anyway, those who had no magic in their lives, and who refused to believe in such things. Perhaps that was why magic had died out – the fact that nobody believed in it, anymore. A lot of it had always been as much about belief as about arcane secrets. You really had to believe that the magic was going to work, unless you wanted it to fail.

He paused at the door to his three room house, and he stared over the landscape laid out before him. He could see a road in the distance. When he had first moved into the house, at this time of day there had never been any traffic on the road. But now he could see the morning sun reflecting of the windshields of cars. The world got faster and faster, as it filled up ever more with people, overflowing with more mouths to be fed.

There were no longer any secret places in the world. Everywhere on the face of the earth had been discovered. People had even explored Antarctica, a continent which people had not even heard of until around two centuries ago. All mystery had gone: the Gobi Desert had been explored; Machu Picchu had been discovered; the rain forests of Africa had been penetrated; Angkor Wat was now only a tourist attraction. Mankind had gone down into the deepest trench in the sea. Men had even walked on the surface of the moon. There could be no magic without mystery. And the mystery had all but gone.

There were still a few secret creatures prowling around the edges. He had heard of such creatures, and he knew that they were true, in the same way that magic was true, as long as people believed in them. But soon the legends of such creatures would die, and they would be no more. Just like magic.

He stood in the doorway of his house, looking out to the east. In the distance his still-sharp eyesight could see some sort of housing development – not that people really wanted to come to the north, anyway. But, even here, he could see modernity slowly encroaching on him.

The wind rustled the robes which he wore. They were plain grey robes. He had no need of mystic symbols on them. Such things were only ever for show.

He wore no sandals on his feet. He liked to feel the earth beneath him: the warm baked ground at the height of summer; the dew on grass in the morning; even the numbing cold of a winter’s snow. He could feel the cool morning breeze on his feet, and it felt good. But those people in their cars would feel no breeze, as they isolated themselves from the world around them, cutting themselves off from the wonder of the world in their little glass and metal automobiles.

He stroked his beard. It was long and snowy white, just like a wizard’s should be. But, for a long time, it had been black, when he had been in the fullness of his power. But that had been a long time ago. It seemed that everything important had been a long time ago. All of the good things were only alive in his memories.

He did not move out of the doorway. A doorway was a magical place; he was neither outside nor inside of his house, but straddling both worlds.

He wondered if it was safe to leave his house, as he now contemplated doing. Once upon a time some of the items inside the house had been powerful artefacts: a ring of wisdom, a cloak of invisibility, a carved staff which had once belonged to Morgan le Fay. But that had been a long time ago. Just as the magic had faded from the world so it had faded from those items. Now all that they were, were a nicely carved oaken staff; an old cloak which had suffered from moth grubs; and a plain gold ring with no powers to it at all.

It was time. Time for him to go. He mourned for the world which had been lost, and would never come again.

He raised his hands up high, over his head, and let the magic flow out of him. With in an instant the years which his mystic power had kept at bay caught up with him. His body turned to dust, blowing away with the wind, leaving no trace of him behind.

 

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