The Science of Magic
Marrillo read the dusty, leather bound book slowly. He was still convinced he had made a mistake. These were the same spells and ideas wizards had been using for a thousand years and everyone said the rituals to perform magic were random. It simply wasn't possible that hundreds of wizards had spent their lives learning these spells and missed the connections.
Every wizard learned from his first lesson that magic had no order or set rules. Spells were born from the chaos of the universe and the only way to discover more was through random trial and error that could take a lifetime to learn a single spell that might not even be useful.
But Marrillo had found a pattern. It wasn't a clear pattern yet and he didn't understand it completely but the closer he looked the more of those small connections he saw. He already had theories on how to make a dozen different spells and he was even able to guess what they might do. It was a power that generations of wizards had dreamed of.
He considered rushing to the elders, but Marrillo was only eighty and people dismissed the ideas of wizards when they were young and reckless. He needed proof and for that he planned to adjust one of the more useful spells. Logins Longsight allowed a wizard to see things clearly that were miles away.
Changing the spell hadn't been easy or direct. He had been working it out for almost four years. In doing so he had learned more about magic than in fifty years of training and began to create an entirely new way to do math.
But now he had created not one, but two new spells. The first allowed him to look at something far too small to see and the other to look through things as if they weren't there. Neither was as useful as the original, but they both were valuable and their connection to farsight was far easier to see.
But before he could go to the elders Erdorn approached him. Erdorn was the third oldest wizard in this part of the world. He was a legend who had survived six major wars and nine centuries.
"We have been watching you," Erdorn said, walking into Marrillo's home without warning or introduction. He rarely spoke to anyone less than a hundred years old and then it was simply to give orders.
"Why would you watch me?" Marrillo asked. Lying to a wizard was always a bad idea, but they tended to assume ignorance so he might get away with it.
"I've met far better liars than you," Erdorn said, but he sounded amused not angry.
"It's just research," Marrillo said.
"Exceptionally dangerous research. I need assurances you're not going to go public," Erdorn said. He sounded deadly serious. The oldest and most powerful wizards knew at least some of what Marrillo knew and wanted to keep that knowledge to themselves.
"We could make the world better," Marrillo said.
"Or far worse. How much power do you want the wizards to have? We already live ten times longer than anyone else and can destroy a castle or army. So, what happens when one man is powerful enough to bury cities under stone or kill someone men anywhere in the world with a ten minute spell?" Erdorn said.
The dangers had never really had never occurred to Marrillo. He had never cared about ruling over people. And even if he wanted power a wizard could be killed by a handful of people if he ever dropped his guard. Spells took time.
"There have to be ways to deal with the most dangerous wizard," Marrillo said.
"There are. Those of us allowed to live long enough to become truly powerful are as far above the power of the average wizard as wizards are above an average person. We watch them for centuries before they begin their second level of training and then they gain power slowly," Erdorn said, and his voice made it clear the discussion was over.
"Can I continue my studies?" Marrillo asked.
"I trust you. Something made easier when you can kill someone from anywhere in the world with a ten minute spell. So make sure you report your discoveries to the elders so we can determine if any of them should be added to the books of magic," Erdorn said.
Marrillo agreed because he knew that Erdorn was more than powerful enough to back up his threat. But that threat was also proof that things needed to change. They had kept the rest of the world in a constant cycle of devastating wars and poverty to hold onto their power and the only way to end that was to gain power so that he could challenge them.
The only breaks he took were when he wrote his letters. They took days to write because they had to be long letters with vague questions which might suggest an understanding of magic that he had seen. If the elders read those letters they might be upset but so long as they held only vague hints it was unlikely they would kill him for it.
Erdorn visited every few months. He walked into Marrillo's home without invitation or warning and left just as abruptly. More than once he had come into the house, watched Marrillo without a word for over an hour then left. Other times he asked strange questions that made Marrillo believe he was still missing important things and once he had come in and made tea then poured a cup for Marrillo.
As he grew accustom to the strange visits Erdorn changed. He walked into the room and said, "There will be a war in three months. You should prepare your defenses."
The wizards shouldn't have any idea that a war was coming. But then he had no idea what the limits of a wizard who understood the rules of magic were. Perhaps they could see the future, or perhaps they were just starting the war.
He spent the next three months preparing defensive spells. He had never studied more than the most basic defensive spells but the studies went quickly. His understanding of the rules of magic made it far easier to learn spells since he started from a point of understanding rather than random guesswork. He could make a shield that was more powerful than the average wizard with about three weeks. He spent the rest of the time experimenting with shields to defend against magic.
Three months to the day from Erdorn's warning the war began. It started on the far edge of a kingdom that bordered the one that Marrillo was living in. At that distance it was mostly rumors but when wizards started a war they always spread and within a month it had spilled over the borders.
The spells that were used were directly out of the magical books without a hint of creativity or understanding by those who used them. That didn't make them any less devastating. Fires burst out of the ground burning down blocks of buildings and magical creatures appeared out of thin air and cut through soldiers.
As much as Marrillo hated the death caused by the war it sped up his research. The restricted books were opened and he felt safe taking bigger risks in his research so long as it was based on his defenses.
The war lasted four years and killed tens of thousands of soldiers and twice that many civilians. That was no surprise. Most wizards didn't care if people died unless they were other wizards or if it interrupted their research. Marrillo's shields helped to protect his city though and it was considerably more intact than many of the other cities.
As the war began to slow Marrillo found a nearly perfect defensive spell. Using a shield as the basis he created a bubble of altered reality. Inside the shield bubble the rules of the world were largely of his choosing. One of the easiest things he could do was to make magic not work inside the bubble. The only real weakness was the size. He could cover his house and a bit of the street around it but no more than that.
His own magic didn't work there either. But that didn't matter much because he could still control the world. Inside that bubble he was the dreamer. He could create food and water out of nothing, speed up time so that he could study for days over a single night. He didn't test it much beyond that. But he wonder if it was something all the elder wizards could do. They would have a lot of tricks he didn't. But he had some hope he had found something new because if he had it was an edge. Something that would let him match them in some basic way.
The biggest weakness of the bubble was that the things he created didn't last outside of it. He couldn't simply create tools and then bring them into the real world and he wasn't sure what would happen if he ate to much of the food he created. But the time was real enough and he needed the time. So he would buy paper and ink and write letters to every wizard he had ever met.
If this worked he could be starting another war weeks after the last had ended. At least weeks for everyone else. And this wouldn't be a normal war. It would be a war against wizards who were far more powerful than those who were normally in the wars. But things needed to change and he was the only one who knew how to change them.
He also spent several months inside the bubble studying the books of magic. As he understood them better he could see possibilities before he began to do the research on how to make the spell work.
Three days after the letters were mailed Erdorn walked into his house. Marrillo rushed toward his sanctuary where he kept the bubble but as he reached out for the smooth rounded edge of reality a spell grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Do you have any idea what you have done?" Erdorn asked, as he lifted the helpless Marrillo into the air.
"I told people the truth," Marrillo said. There would be one last war, one last battle and whether they won or lost the power of the elder's would be broken.
"Wizards, good wizards, all over the world are going to die. A few will be elder wizards, but far more are going to be children unable to understand the power you tried to give them. I kill three wizards last night because of you.
"You could trust them and see what happened," Marrillo said.
"It's not that easy. Once someone has the power you're giving it's going to be almost impossible to stop them. Ordered magic will create an eternal slave race that will be treated little better than animals."
And suddenly Marrillo understood why they had known there would be a war in three months. They hadn't seen the future. The elders had started the war.
"You start the wars to get wizards killed. He simply hadn't seen it because wizards so rarely killed each other, but in every war about a quarter of wizards died before it ended."
"The wizards who are most likely to be killed in a war are the wizards who most like war. An immortal wizard can turn the part of the world he lives in into a paradise or rule it as a tyrant," Erdorn said.
"Until the next war when they are all killed in one of the battles that never end," Marrillo said.
"What other option do we have?" Erdorn asked and it really sounded as if he might want one.
"We could leave," Marrillo said.
"We've considered it, but there are too many wizards who wouldn't leave and more people with abilities will be born. It could make the problem worse."
"What if we could go without leaving?" Marrillo asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I created a defensive spell during the war. It was a shield bubble that I could surround my house with to protect from magical attacks. Inside the bubble I control the rules of the world. I can make it so there is no magic inside the bubble except the person who creates it controls the reality. I call that person the dreamer," Marrillo said.
"And there has to be a dreamer?"
"Once it's in place it will stay the same until someone uses magic to remove it, but without the dreamer it's just a shield," Marrillo said. He understood though, he couldn't be trusted with power like that. No one person could be allowed to have that much power. Neither of them even considered the size. Marrillo had no doubt they could expand it far enough.
"You could kill me after the bubble has been created and it would stay, but you won't have magic while mine will be practically instinctual," Marrillo said.
"That's simple enough. The person who is creating the shield will take a slow acting poison. They take the poison, cast the spell and then spread the shield across as much area as we can," Erdorn said.
The poison wasn't a problem. Many of the ingredients wizards used were poisonous. It was only a matter of ensuring death while giving him enough time to complete the plan.
There wasn't much time but Marrillo had become far better and the changes weren't all that difficult. They were simply complex. But he knew what he needed to do. And while Marrillo created the spell Erdorn mixed a poison that should be mostly painless and kill a person in about three days.
Once Marrillo understood the magic he prepared to take the poison, but while he was trying to understand one particularly impressive part of the magic he felt a surge of magic strike him. For a moment he was certain that Erdorn had betrayed him. That he was going to use the spell to make himself a virtual god. But when Marrilo woke up he saw that the poison was gone.
Of course he had no way to know if Erdorn had actually taken it. They had chosen a poison that wouldn't show any outward effects until days after the spell was done. No that wasn't entirely accurate. They hadn't chosen the poison Erdorn had.
But there wasn't anything he could do about it. Marrillo could try to cast the spell himself, but if Erdorn had simply hidden the poison he would kill Marrillo. He had to trust the wizard while knowing that he was both much older and much more powerful. Or at least he had assumed he was. Though the truth was that beyond knowing some spells other people didn't and being old he had very little proof that Erdorn was truly powerful or that he understand how to make the spells himself.
Since there wasn't anything to do about it he decided to assume that the wizard had told the truth. And so Marrillo said,"I would have taken the poison and I certainly didn't need to be knocked unconscious," Marrillo said.
"I couldn't take the chance that you would resist me. You might be the only person in the world who can find a better solution than to banish magic. You understood magic without someone telling you and far younger than anyone who is alive. You need find an island outside of the bubble and study magic until you find a better solution."
Three days later Marrillo buried the nine hundred year old wizard in his back yard. He dug the hole by hand because his magic didn't work. The bubble was intact and wizards all over the world would be powerless and have no idea why. A lot of them were going to be fleeing for their lives in the next few days, though he suspected those who had spent their lives helping people would find that now that they needed help they would find it easily enough.
Either way few if any of them would ever use magic again. It would be at least a couple hundred years before the spell began to weaken and then it would shrink slowly. But by then no one who had been trained with magic would be in those lands having long since fled or died of old age without their magic to sustain them.
As for him he took the advice of Erdorn. He filled a small sailing ship with all of his books and any spell components he couldn't find or create himself and set sail. Magic, being weakened by water would have left plenty of small islands free from the shield and once there he could begin the search for a better solution than simply eliminating magic.
This is only one of the stories in my fantasy anthology Random Fantasies. Read the rest for free with Kindle Unlimited or get it for 2.99.