Otherworlds Origins: The Mage's Apprentice part 1

Written by Christopher Clark

Written by Christopher Clark

88th Year After Awakening, Sixth Cycle, Fifth Rotation; Haryx Fende, Law Mage of Krystos

One week after my arrival on HG 40706b, I must say: I do not understand these humans.

This planet, called “Urus” by the inhabitants, is largely populated by this confusing race of humanoids. The system, Pictor-4, is a minor, backwater collection of rocks orbiting a trinary star cluster. I give this area an unflattering description because it deserves one; Urus and its planetary sisters lack any sort of beauty whatsoever.

An orange sky and twin blue stars bath the surface of the planet in a jarring, unnatural light that is painful to the eyes until they adjust. The wildlife is overlarge and discolored, much like the splash of glaring color that is the sky. Because Pictor-4 is a trinary system, darkness is a rarity. The abundance of sunlight leads to an abundance of plantlife; Urus is rife with colossal, creeping plant structures that are as much a hazard as any predator.

Curiously, the people of Urus are human, or near enough in genetic composition that my eyes cannot observe any differences between them and the standard fare. Like their otherworldly cousins, the humans of Urus are short-lived, short-sighted, and frustrating individuals. Their world is ruled by a disparate series of local governors with no overarching political body to speak of. Thus far, I have only visited a limited number of these territories; of the ones I have reached, only one had any form of organized democracy. The rest have been an alarming mix of juntas and dictatorships with little in regard for individual liberty. Luckily, I arrived in the aforementioned democratic state; my authority was not questioned, and I have thus far been allowed to operate with little interference.

Technologically speaking, Urus is far behind the Dyahri Federation, but is also not what I would call primitive. Its assorted nation-states are at different levels of advancement; some are just discovering the use of combustion, while others are refining combustion technology to not be harmful to their own people. They were made aware of extraterrestrial life nearly two stellar decades ago. Thus, while my presence is certainly considered an anomaly to them, I am not the first otherworldy being with advanced technology that they have seen.

They are, however, familiar with Ancient technology, and are likewise familiar with Astral. More on that later.

The people of Urus speak a unique language, and it took some time for me to communicate effectively. However, the translation unit on my ship was eventually able to derive a common root language, one used by humans a very long time ago in distant parts of the galaxy. It appears that whoever brought their race here also brought language, but whatever happened to their technology remains a mystery to me.

But even in this more advanced nation, I cannot help but be taken aback by the indifference of these people. My first day on Urus, I discovered a man who had collapsed against a building in a heavily-trafficked part of a city. His fellows walked past him as if he were invisible. Luckily, familiar as I am with human biology, resuscitating him was a small task. Unfortunately, the man was perhaps less stable than I had hoped; he regarded me as something of a god-like savior, and it took several minutes of profuse refusal before I convinced him not to worship me.

This, I have come to learn, is standard fare on this world. Urus’s people face a harsh, bleak life. The planet is constantly ravaged by harsh weather, which has limited the growth of their small civilizations. The lack of resources and abundance of danger have built a people are that are cold and unlikely to find motivation to help one another. In my first week, I have tried to motivate many of them into collective advancement, but my attempts have largely fallen upon deaf ears.

Do they not know that the greatest advancements in the universe have been driven by the intellect of the collective, and not the individual? No, of course not. Their lives are oriented by survival first and everything else second.

My hope is to change that. This is my first mission as a Law Mage. I found research dull, politics distasteful, and science to be an unseemly mixture of the two. My abilities are perhaps a bit beyond my chosen field, but I believe that this role is where I can do the most good. Thus, despite how I may feel about this odd little world at the outset, I cannot shake the feeling that Urus is where I belong.

88AA 6C7R

My second week on Urus has not been as productive as I had hoped. I returned again to the central government of Urus’s largest nation, known to its locals as Afrion, but I found that my suggestions for change and offerings for help fell on deaf ears. While the Prime Minster of Afrion was happy to meet with me, he clearly regarded the entire affair as a simple diplomatic exercise and did not invite me to any official state meetings or military summits. I am led to believe that this is the standard experience for the various Law Mages exploring the galaxy, but I had hoped that my experience would be different.

Left to my own devices, I have decided that the best use of my time will be among the people. I have taken to the streets of Saint Volos, the capital of Afrion. Much to my amusement, the man I saved last week followed me to my lodging and waited for me. Epher has become something of my guide around Saint Volos, showing me the areas where crime is the most rampant, poverty is most obvious, and in short, where need is the greatest. I have provided Epher with new clothes, food, and a bath, which has done wonders for his appearance and his demeanor.

Epher has no family name, nor does he know which nation or region he hails from. Thus, he is simply Epher. He is young, just on the precipice of adulthood. His earliest memory is that of an urchin on the streets of Afrion. He is shrewd, survival-driven, and reactive. But he is also curious, intelligent, and remarkably insightful. Although he professes that he followed me because he feels that I can show him to his destiny, I suspect that his motivations may have been driven by a more immediate need for change. Epher is not a healthy man. I do not have a full medical facility unit on my ship, but I have been able to determine that he bears several diseases that, if left untreated, will eventually kill him.

Healing the unclean is not my primary purpose on Urus, but I am not one to leave a man in need. I have given Epher the best medical care I can provide and have assured him that if he is willing to assist me while I am on the planet, to do as I say and go where I go, I will bring him offworld where his conditions can be cured. It is up to Epher to find motivation and listen to me while I am here. I can show him more, but he must put in the work to reach for it.

I have a meeting next week with a rival nation of Afrion, a place called Pith. The Prime Minister scoffed at this notion; Pith is their largest military competitor, and the two have been at near-constant war for almost ten local years (approximately eight and one half solar cycles). I assured him that I would find a way to make myself useful.

In the meantime, Epher and I will return to the streets of Saint Volos and do what we can.

“Them cops make me nervous” is a phrase I have heard from Epher at least five times now, a sentiment shared by his fellow street-dwellers. Their concern is enough to make me suspicious of the law enforcement standards in this area. I believe that I have identified opportunities for constructive criticism and intend to spend some time with them soon.

I have reminded Epher that I am involved in law enforcement, too. After several seconds of strained thinking, his response surprised me:

“Nah, boss; you got a good heart, but you got a good brain, too. Not like them. Not like them at all.”

I am not sure where he was keeping this wisdom all these years, but it is this sort of statement that has greatly endeared this young man to me.

88AA 6C9R

Well, that did not go as planned.

Governor-General Bephemeus Proxior Calloros, the leader of Pith’s military junta, is a brusque man with little patience and even less empathy. His nation is a violent and dreadful place that makes the dirty streets of Saint Volos seem positively uplifting by comparison. Pith is ruled by blood and conquest, with the vast majority of its territorial expansions having come as a direct result of military action. He asked, repeatedly, if the Dyahri would be willing to provide him with weapons technology that he might use to conquer this planet. He was dismissive of my questions and showed little interest in my presence once it became clear to him that I would not give him or his people the secrets of a technological advancement.

I have little patience for this sort of fellow and found the task of negotiating with him a difficult one.

I wanted one simple thing: a ceasefire, long enough for he and the Prime Minister of Afrion to work out some sort of peace. But he was not interested. It appears that he regards his constant aggressive military action as a strength, and Afrion’s defensive and non-hostile nature as a weakness. He seems to believe that it is his holy right to stamp out weakness wherever he sees it. Despite my explanations that the most advanced and prosperous peoples around the galaxy obtained their successes through cooperation, he insists that his way is the way of Urus.

The meeting ended in tension. I assured the Governor-General that his way would end in ruin. When he scoffed at me again, I made my intentions clearer: find a better way or face the consequences of a higher power. He took this as a threat. I am afraid to say that I had to subdue twenty of his elite guardsmen before he ordered his men to cease their needless attacks and allow me to leave in peace.

Epher stood by me throughout the affair, tight like a coiled spring. I could tell that the Governor-General made him uneasy from the first moments of our meeting, but I asked that he save his thoughts for later. He squirmed a few times and clearly wanted to speak his mind, but no doubt remembering my warnings about doing as I say, remained mercifully quiet. He kept a level head when we were under attack, and even managed to fend off one of the guards for a few moments before I could step in to assist.

This was the first time on Urus that I had used astral in a serious way. Much to my surprise, my power seemed to awaken something within Epher, causing him to generate a nimbus of energy around his body that seemed to energize him and repel our foes. He had never experienced this before that moment. While it was unrefined and almost impossibly primitive, it was significant enough to merit further study.

We spoke at length on the return flight to Afrion. His impression of Pith’s leader was not a good one. He told me that he knew of other individuals with a similar inclination for violence. His experiences living on the street have exposed him to exactly that sort of person, the kind that hurts for the sake of hurting. He likened it to a sort of predator and prey mentality. When I asked which was superior in this case, he thought for a moment before telling me this:

“Prey. It’s never wrong to get hurt, but lots of times, it’s wrong to do the hurting.”

When I questioned him about his latent talents, about the possibility of learning to become a Mage, he grew visibly excited. While it’s unusual for a human to possess talents on par with even the weakest Dyahri, I told him that he still had a great opportunity to learn from the most talented magic-users of all time. He asked to begin at once. Sadly, I refused; I am no teacher, barely out of training myself, and would not even know where to begin with his education.

However, I have sent a message to my former master, who has retired and now lives a rather peaceful, reclusive life on Anthos. I believe in Epher. His talents are deserving of an education. If he is to be taught, I want him to be taught by the best, and my former master is the best teacher and best Mage I have ever known.

Until I can confirm a place for him, we return to Afrion to resume our work. I will hopefully have a few chances to speak to the local law enforcement agencies in Saint Volos. Maybe, just maybe, I can still salvage this operation there.

88AA 7C1R

My final stretch of days on Afrion was not without surprises.

Not even one planetary rotation after returning, Epher and I found ourselves out on the streets amidst a raucous uproar. It seems that as we were visiting with the government of Pith, their soldiers were carrying out additional military action against Afrion. Despite Afrion’s superior manpower and technology, their soldiers were caught off guard and suffered heavy losses. Their border forces retreated, allowing Pith to yet again seize land, supplies, and people from Afrion.

The military machine of Pith is supported by a massive population of slaves, and this sort of sudden military action is how they acquire them. It seems that shortly after the Awakening, the leaders of Pith uncovered a cache of Ancient technology. Not being sophisticated or talented enough to properly use this power they uncovered, they have overcompensated by throwing labor at the problem. They constructed enormous power-generating wheels that are pushed by slaves behind the lines of their army.

The wheels generate a foul, tainted power that flows into Pith’s army. The magic energizes their armor, powers their weapons, and enhances their physical abilities. But exposure to the magic deteriorates the body within the armor in a matter of months, causing cancerous growths to appear all over the body of the host soldier. It is only a matter of days after the tumors appear that the body dies.

Not satisfied with this, the Grand Mage of Pith engineered some manner of a solution: the corpses of the fallen are reanimated and sent back out into the front lines. Dead enemy soldiers are likewise raised and returned to battle, part of a hungry, war-mongering machine that may never stop. This three-headed monster, the wheel, the armor, and the unstoppable dead, is one of the most sickening things I have ever seen.

Were it in my power, I would return to the capital building and remind them in a more direct manner of my stance on this topic (and the stance of my people), but unfortunately, I will not have the opportunity to return. It is up to the people of Urus to right this wrong. While Afrion’s government seems unsure, the people of Saint Volos seem to be of the same opinion, and they took to the streets to voice their displeasure for the inaction of their government.

I have never seen such vitriol between a government and its own subjects. Peacekeepers, armed with shields and clubs and heavy armor, responded swiftly to the riots. It only took one hour for the first death to occur, a death that I could not possibly have prevented. But it was enough.

Once I was sure Epher was safely secured within my ship, I returned to the site of the worst fighting and amassed my power. It only took a little effort; a simple concussive blast over the city square where the rioters and peacekeepers had gathered was enough. My working stunned over two hundred people, snapping them out of their battle. The effect lasted just long enough to interrupt their fighting and get their attention.

For the first time since my arrival on Urus, all eyes were on me.

These humans… they bring out an anger in me that I did not know existed. Perhaps it was always there. Or, perhaps they have managed to influence me more than I initially realized. Regardless, that anger rose within me and I was not kind. I spoke swiftly and directly and promised these men and women that if they did not find a better way, they would bring death upon themselves.

My conclusion regarding Urus is limited only to my impression of these two nations. I cannot fathom living here, in a constant state of struggle and conflict between my own people, who draw imaginary lines between their homes so that they might have something to take from one another. If the rest of the planet is like this, and I suspect that it is, I believe my proclamation to be correct. If it cannot learn to change, Urus will burn in fires started by its own people.

Now, as Epher and I prepare to take our leave and return to Krystos, I profess only one last hope. I hope that my words reached them. I hope they heard me, deep inside. I hope that my words showed them not only the logical path, but also the better path. All the magic in the galaxy cannot correct the damage that has been done to Urus. But words, strong and impassioned words, may do what even the strongest power cannot. I take solace in that, and in the good that this training will bring to Epher.

I may not have done what I came here to do, but I have done something. That, for now, will need to be enough.