Mage Emergence, page 1
Mage Emergence 1st Edition
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Christopher George
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.
Cover design by Christopher George
Cover photography by Ian Harding Photography
Cover artwork by Megan Owenson
Typesetting by Odyssey Publishing
This book is dedicated to my nephew Harrison.
We often write the stories we would have liked to have read as children. You’re a little young right now for these stories, but one day I hope you’ll come up to me and say ‘Cool story, Uncle Chris.’
Stranger things have happened. With much love as always, your uncle.
This book is the final in Devon’s story and represents about eight years of work, during which I had to learn how to make myself into the writer that I have become. My high school English teacher would be very surprised at my persistence.
I couldn’t have done that without the help of some very important people in my life. As always, Rebecca and Imogen for being patient with me and understanding while I spent untold hours in front of my computer.
To my friends who dragged themselves through my unedited thoughts and story as I sought to bring some clarity to my ideas. You no doubt have a much greater understanding of the insanity that lurks just below my psyche. Thank you, Rebecca Truong, Jane Sandham, Nic Van Arkadie and Don Cameron. I cannot thank you enough.
And lastly, I’d once again like to recognise the efforts of Ian Harding and Megan Owenson. You have been with me since the first book and I cannot imagine that the success I’ve had with these books would have been possible without your efforts.
the process of becoming visible after being concealed.
the process of coming into existence or prominence.
And so we come to the end. It is fitting that my ending takes place where I began. It is also perhaps fitting that I am surrounded by the ruins of the city in which I was born. This is my legacy. I leave behind me only waste and desolation. Those who come after me will not remember my name fondly. Any friends and family who still remain behind will not even know I have passed. There will be no one to mourn my name when I am gone. Yet, I am content. This is as it should be.
My name is Devon Wills and I am going to die very soon. I can feel it in my bones. I can taste it in the very air around me. With each passing moment I become more certain that I will not survive the night. Even as I kill more of those sent to end me, I know it is simply a matter of time. I have already dispatched three teams of soldiers who sought to kill me, but it will not be such as those that will be my downfall - it will be my former master. I glance down at my watch uncertainly. It’s past time. He is late.
My former master is Victor Whittlesea and he is never unintentionally late.
I grip the mobile phone in my pocket nervously as I glance across the city. I’m not looking at the city as it is now, with its fallen towers and burning streets. I’m not seeing the scavengers hiding in bolt holes and sewers. Their fates don’t interest me. I look past the gangs and marauders who have taken control of the streets since all order had fallen. No, I’m looking at the city as it had once been.
God knows it hasn’t been perfect - we’ve had homelessness and graffiti, vandalism and muggings in the past - but it was better than this. It had worked. It deserves better than this. I remember shopping with my father at a small supermarket that was now a pile of rubble. I had eaten at a restaurant that has since been gutted and opened to the elements. I had probably ridden the exact tram car that was now smashed and lying abandoned in the middle of the street.
I don’t care to see the people on the street below now, as they fight and kill each other. I know in my heart that many are just victims of circumstance and they aren’t truly responsible for their actions, but it doesn’t really make much difference at the end of the day. A starving man killing another for tinned fruit is still just as damaged as a psychopath who kills for pleasure. The damage is still done and there is no coming back. I know all too well the damage done by being forced to commit murder. I have killed many times and I will kill again, once more at least.
I still see those who have fallen before me when I close my eyes. I hear their death screams and I remember the light as it left their eyes. Yes, there is truly no coming back from inflicting death. I am broken, but I am not unusual in that. Everyone in the city below me is broken in one way or another. I wonder how many new damaged souls have been created as our ‘war’ intensifies across the globe. It had begun so simply and has spiralled out of control so quickly.
Our kind spread like wildfire across the globe as we turned upon each other in righteous fury. We fought each other in an attempt to prove our dominance over one another and we had dragged the rest of the world along with us.
I had chosen to stand against my kind. I saw them as nothing more than a cancer on the face of world that needed purging. We were the evil. We were the ones who had started all this. Our quest for power had brought the old world down. I knew the hypocrisy of my statement, as amongst my peers I was the most responsible, but that just meant I had to be the one to do something. Many of my kind had fallen to me, but there were always more. As the war expanded across Europe and then into the United States I realised I could no longer work alone. The collateral damage was too much. This war needed to end.
What had started as a conventional war had twisted into something new, something more dangerous - a mage war. In a conventional war, the winner is usually determined by who has the better tech. A mage war winner is determined by one simple factor – power. Whichever side has the more powerful mages wins.
That didn’t matter to me though. With every fallen mage on both sides, my objectives would be furthered. The death of my kind would relieve the shackles held around the world’s throat. This war would pass, and people would recover, and the countries and economies would regrow. Soon the world would return to the old ways and it would be as if our kind never existed. I was a fool. It had taken me far too long to see this simple truth: the old world was gone. In the end I was forced to come to the same conclusion as everyone else. There simply wasn’t enough left to save. Our war had changed everything.
Only one true relic remains from the old world: my former master. And I am going to remedy that tonight.
Victor is here; he has been for some time now. He isn’t hiding from me. He is far too sure of himself for that. So why does he delay? I am here, alone and unarmed. Well, at least as unarmed as our kind can be. Why hasn’t he struck me down yet? I’m sure it’s not through a lack of motivation. He’s already tried to kill me before.
He had almost been successful, too, on several occasions. Instead he had left me crippled and broken. Only my magic prevented my injuries from seriously handicapping me. I had used Mana to make myself powerful once again. I had used it to keep myself mobile. I had used it because I had no other choice. Without my powers I was as feeble as a child, barely able to walk or hold myself upright, but with them I was unstoppable.
Victor and I are probably the last two most powerful practitioners of our art left. Once he deals with me he will have
I don’t much like my chances of survival, but I am going to fight anyway. Why? Because I have no choice – this conflict needs to end. I know it and so does Victor. All he has to do is come and finish me off. And here I am, standing on a building rooftop in plain sight. Surely this opportunity is too much to pass up? So why isn’t he here? I check my watch again.
“Victor!” I call out, using my Mana to amplify my voice. “Come out and finish this. It is time!”
My voice would have been heard across every inch of this city. He would have heard me, but more so he would have felt the Mana surge across the city as I amplified my voice. I can still see the shockwave caused by my Mana passing over the smouldering rubble of once-familiar buildings and across the beloved landmarks of my childhood now falling into ruins.
The loud explosion of sound that usually precedes a teleport spell brings me spinning around to face my old master. It is time. I steadied my nerves as I gripped my fingers into fists. I casually clip the loose battery on my mobile phone into place and close the lid. I carefully flick the phone on, never once taking my eyes from my adversary. The familiar electronic jingle notifies me that it has finished loading and then I drop it into the rubble beneath me as I step forward and look at my upcoming death squarely in the eyes. I will not flinch in the face of it. I am ready.
This is how it ends. It is fitting. Let me now tell you how this begins.
My eyes flared as the sound of rockets firing overhead blocked out all other noise. I shuddered involuntarily as debris of dust and ash washed over me like a wave of seawater on a beach. I gritted the dirt beneath my fists as I pulled myself back onto my feet and drew upon my powers. The sound of gunfire echoed across my shield as I made my way across the battlefield. I vaguely heard the screams of the dying as I waded through the rubble, but I ignored them. I didn’t turn to look at them, I didn’t need to see them. I knew they were there and there were too many to count. They either fell because I was unable to protect them or they fell because they chose to stand against me. Either way, they meant nothing to me now.
I burst into the abandoned building at the other end of the field. The bullets on my shield were nothing more than a steady stream of noise. With a wave of my hand I brought the doors barring my entrance to the ground, their fall echoing through the remains of the gutted building. The building shuddered as the doors hit the marbled floor and dust fell from its ancient ceiling. The building at some point must have been a church; it had the look of a place of sacred worship, but now it was nothing more than a barricade to those who would stop me.
I ignored the terrified shouts and further volleys of rifle fire that ricocheted off my shield. I was way past the point where conventional weapons could harm me. Only one thing gave me pause, and that was the figure on the far side of the church crouched behind the overturned altar.
With a snarl I tore the pews from the floor and sent them smashing out towards the back of the church. The wooden benches did nothing to those huddled behind the altar, but they ended the others who weren’t so lucky to be behind solid cover. A vortex of splintered wood and furniture cascaded out in every direction as my Mana tore the place apart.
The Mana signature of the figure on the other side of the church flared in response to my assault. From the look of the flare, the figure was a powerful member of my former order. I couldn’t see the figure properly through the shadow and the dust in the room, but the shield surrounding it was impressive. It wasn’t a problem though; I’d broken through stronger shields.
I didn’t give the mage a chance to strike first. I reached out with both hands and tore the altar from the ground. It was heavy marble; only another mage could have turned it on its side. With a contemptuous flick of my wrists I sent the altar flying backwards, slamming into the crowd it was supposed to be protecting.
They didn’t stand a chance. The soldiers using the altar as firing cover were immediately killed as the several hundred tonne table tore through them. The loud explosion of air and flash of Mana indicated that the weight had been sufficient to bring my opponent’s shield down.
The altar had smashed into pieces by the impact and covered a wide area of the church floor. Two large chunks of marble lay over the body of the fallen mage, but I had to be sure. I couldn’t leave anyone behind – I’d made that mistake before. It was better to be sure, better to make certain they were dead. I needed to see the Mana fade from their body as their life left them.
I hurled the crumbling marble away as I surveyed my handiwork. The body of the mage lay crumpled on his stomach. No, that wasn’t right, my opponent wasn’t a man. She was a woman - but the gender of my enemy made little difference. In Mana potential, women were just as powerful as men. I couldn’t make out any more details as dust and rubble covered most of the slender woman.
I gazed down on her body. She was obviously dead; her Mana had long since faded. There was no need to look at her face, but morbid curiosity got the better of me. With shaking hands I pulled her over onto her back. I gritted my teeth as I noticed her hair was reddish brown. My breath caught in my throat as her face rolled over into view.
My scream echoed throughout my skull and I awoke in a fit of panic and sweat. I had had the dream again. I rubbed layers of grime and sweat from my face as I surveyed my surroundings. It took me longer than it should have to realise where I was. The room around me was utilitarian and bleak. I was in an underground bunker. This room was designed to sleep twelve soldiers, but due to my privilege I was currently its only occupant.
I was grateful for this small mercy. I wouldn’t have wanted any to witness my sleep. As far as the others were concerned, I didn’t need sleep, I didn’t need air - hell, I didn’t even need food. I needed this illusion to be maintained. If they learned I was just as clueless and directionless as they were, they would turn on me in an instant.
I pulled myself up from my bed, using my arms to support my weight. I cursed the numbness in my legs that meant this was a necessity, but there was nothing I could do about that. I glanced briefly at the clock. It’s flashing digits told me that it was 3:00am. It was too early to get up. It didn’t matter much though, I had no intention to returning to sleep. I pulled my feet from the bed and gently rested them on the floor.
I grimaced slightly at the painful sensation of setting my feet on the solid concrete. It was a bittersweet pain. It meant I wasn’t totally paralysed, but I wasn’t getting any better either. I grunted as I activated the Mana that would restore my motility. Using my Mana to support my actions had once been a huge drain, but I had quickly learned to compensate. I would never be an athlete or be able to move spryly, but I could move around without being dependent upon others, and that was all that really mattered.
I sighed as I used my powers to pull myself to my feet and willed my legs to make me walk. The walking was an unnecessary affectation. I didn’t need to make myself walk; I could have simply glided across the floor like a ghost, but I didn’t want that. I didn’t want anything that would make me seem weak. I could walk, I wasn’t crippled. I was strong. No one could say otherwise. I wouldn’t allow anyone to see otherwise.
I pushed the door to the bathroom open and blinked as the lights flickered on. This bathroom was again meant to serve a dozen soldiers; again it served only me. I moved over to one of the sinks and ran some water over my face. I gazed into the mirror with disdain. I needed a haircut and shave, but again these civilities didn’t really matter much in this time either. Most of my soldiers sported similar growth. No, it was my scars that bore my attention. My face was calloused and cracked, sporti
It wasn’t always the same dream, but it always ended the same way. I pulled my enemy over and it was Renee. It was always Renee. The thought sent shivers down my spine. Every time I was called into action I wondered if this would be the time that it happened for real, that this would be the time I would be forced to stand against her.
I had fought in over forty battles with my kind, and the thought I would have to face Renee terrified me every time. I hadn’t seen her for six years, since I had left her in Paris to rescue my sister. Looking back, I wonder if she had seen the future, if she had somehow known what fate awaited us. She had claimed she was going off the grid, hiding out from our kind as much as the real world. I hoped she had managed to hide herself deep. I hoped she was well enough hidden that I would never find her. God I hoped she was safe. I was aware of the hypocrisy of my philosophy, and it tore me apart. Our kind must die. I knew this for a fact, but not Renee. Dear god, not Renee. I couldn’t do that.
I scowled as I looked at my haggard figure. The fear in my eyes was almost tangible in my reflection. I clenched my fists into the metal frame of the washbasin. I hated the fear reflected in my features. I loathed the fact that I should feel this way. I was more powerful than I had ever been, and yet my fear hadn’t subsided. I could perform feats that even two years ago would have humbled all but the most accomplished of my kind, and still I feared. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. How strong would I need to be before the fear left me? How many would I need to bend to my will before I finally conquered my own demons? What did I have to do to defeat this fear?