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by Ross Kitson
I can still recall the precise moment when I first saw the Blue Lake. The spiralling silhouette of Areten, with its haze of sorcery, was reflected on the glassy surface. The lake had a veneer of tranquillity, yet its depths spoke of danger—much like mankind.
My father rested his hand on my shoulder. It was the only time his touch was ever one of affection.
“It is your element, boy. Water shall be your Order.”
And it was thus. Every month I returned to the shores of the lake. Every month I was reassured by its consistency in my world of change. Throughout my childhood, apprenticeship, my choosing and my initiation it remained implacable. It gave me strength in its reliability.
On the day of my bonding I returned. A Gem of Power was soldered into my chest and I could feel the magic coursing through me like decanted creation. My flesh still stank from the ritual. I regarded the impassive surface--regarded the mirror image of the great city--and I walked into the water.
It soothed and caressed me like a faithful concubine. I raised my arms and allowed the water to swirl around me and lift me from the surface, and I rode on a wave of mystical water across to the far shore.
And though I travelled far, honing my sorcery, perfecting my mastery at the behest of the rulers of Areten, the lake was never far from my mind. I cast my father’s ashes into its depths, praying that the after-life would be kinder to him than he had been to me. I watched as the magical city spread around the shores of Blue Lake—a city of impossible angles and insane structures. It was a city of sorcery to rule a land of mages.
And then the war came.
It was inevitable that those of the Orders beyond our nation would grow envious. For they resided in lands where lower men ruled. They bent the knee to kings and queens, whoring their magic in service to fools. In our land the magi had taken their rightful place as rulers. It stood to reason that if we had been given such powers by the gods—powers to shape the world, to control the four elements—that they had meant for us to be monarchs.
I was stood on the shores of the lake when the attack came. They were turncoats, traitors, seduced by the soft vulpine words of the foreigners. Three came to kill me: two of the fire and one of the earth. I saw their figures dancing in the surface of the Blue Lake. The waters were troubled.
They could not have chosen a worse place to battle me. With a gesture I created a thick mist from the moisture of the lake. It rolled over them like a wraith. I stepped into the cold waters and my body became one with the lake, flowing in a magical stream through the azure depths.
I emerged behind the Earth-mage as he floundered in the mists. I held his throat as ice flowed through my hands, freezing the blood within his veins. He dropped to become one with his chosen element.
The Fire-mages attacked in a panic, sending torrents of bright flame through the thick haze. But fire, as ever, is subservient to water. The magic surged through me as I brought a vast wave from the Blue Lake crashing upon them. They were washed away like flotsam, writhing and screaming in fear. The magic was singing a chorus within my soul. This was the power of the gods; this was the taste of creation. This was what we fought for—our right to shape our world as we chose, to remake it with our own design. Surely this was what was intended?
The Fire-mages died swiftly, trapped within the asphyxiating embrace of the lake. I watched their corpses bob on the surface and sadness overcame me at the waste. Mages like me, just corrupted by naivety, stymied by tradition. They had no concept of the future.
And now I lay on the banks of Blue Lake. I can see its former beauty in my mind’s eye. I can still see the shimmering water, stealing motes of brilliance from the setting sun. Yet now it's only a memory.
Blue Lake yawns before me—a vast crater. Its base is littered with debris, choked by dust.
Three figures are approaching. I see them through the shimmer of heat that rises from the crater. They are spectres of my death.
All I can taste is dust. It coats me like a skin of purgatory; it consumes me. A disease has come upon us, a plague of dust. It turns all it touches to powder, consigns all to float on the wind like an afterthought of history.
I ask myself how we came to this and the answer screams back at me from every soul now swirling on the breeze. We failed the world. We failed the gods. We tried to change too much, invigorated by our ambition and arrogance.
We thought magic was the gift, but in truth it was never the case. It was the world that was our gift, and it was a gift we tarnished.
This plague of dust was our reward, sent unto us from the gods like a disappointed father. I look at the cracked oval that was once Blue Lake and I wonder if my father’s ashes are mixed in with the dirt.
The three figures stand over me. They wear plague masks, glassy eyes regarding me without compassion. I watch as my arm begins to crumble into dust and I pray that they end my pain before it spreads throughout me.
And I pray that they will leave me to become one with Blue Lake once more.
micheledutcher - This story could well be a sad commentary on the changing weather patterns of today. Huge swaths of continents are becoming deserts where before there was fertile land. Water shall be the gold of the next generation I fear.
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