V9i3 Golden Paladin Duet Sub1

Narrated by Shae Strong and Randell Moore

Setting up camp took well into the night, and the mood was tense and somber. Though the troops had witnessed the radiant glory of the Creator-chosen Golden Paladin, and the ambush had ultimately been unsuccessful, they now had wounded to look after — and the reality of being deep in enemy territory was setting in.

Hesa looked up as the Golden Paladin entered the tent that served as the leaders’ meeting place. She was sitting at the broad table whose surface was scattered with maps, notes, reports, and other pertinent papers.

“How are the wounded?” she asked, seemingly unsurprised that he’d visited the medical tent himself.

He sighed. “Good news; the majority will be on their feet in a week. Bad news; two deaths from the auxiliary core. Three will have to be returned to Arthur’s Kingdom for long-term rehabilitation.”

Hesa steepled her hands before her, leaning her elbows. Her eyes went distant and the Golden Paladin could almost see the gears turning in her head. To give her a moment to think, he took a seat next to her.

“It’s not like we didn’t anticipate having to send some back, but so early … ” she said finally, her tone dark. A logistical nightmare hovered between her words. “How long until we can move out?”

“Three days, minimum. I’ve sent out scouts to survey the area. If nothing else, we might be able to locate and destroy as many of the staves as possible. I’m not certain if they can be reactivated from a distance, but it’s better not to risk it.”

Hesa leaned over to rummage around under the table, bringing up a spiked eye the size of the Golden Paladin’s fist. A daemonscript banner dangled from underneath it and it sat on a broken wooden haft.

“Does that mean you’ll want me to hand this over?” she asked. “I was hoping to study it some more.”

“I suppose that depends on what you learned.”

“Well, I can tell you for certain that this one’s dead. Entirely devoid of not only mana but incapable of containing it any longer. Obviously, I can’t say the same about the ones still out there without seeing them, but even if there was a way to reactivate them, we wouldn’t be in danger having this one in camp. Also, this —” she gestured at the writing on the banner —“is a form of true necromantic script.”

“What does that mean?”

“Mm, languages among mages are unique and highly protected — almost proprietary, since words have power. Each school has its own language, and the more powerful families and individuals will also create their own. To a degree, that makes anything a mage leaves behind vulnerable to being linked directly back to them, as in this case.”

“So, whose language is it?”

“I can’t tell you the exact individual, because I don’t actually know how to read this specific language, but I can tell you two things about them: they’re not from this planet, and they’re a true necromancer — someone who seeks the Thread of Death.”

“There is such a thing?” the Golden Paladin asked, surprised.

“Of course. The Threads are a part of the basic construction of the Creation. Everything in existence with a connection to the Weave has an associated Thread. That includes Life … and Death. This is pretty basic stuff. Didn’t you say you’d lived as a mage at least once?”

“Yes, but it was long ago. You should know better than anyone that the study of the Weave is ever-evolving. My knowledge was pretty limited to begin with, and seems to have become even more outdated.” The Golden Paladin sighed in resignation.

“Forgive my assumption, but you have no idea what you did back there, do you?” Hesa asked, leaning down to put the stave back under the table.

The Golden Paladin cleared his throat in embarrassment. “Was it that obvious?”

“Probably only to me. You used a command — a word of power. Remember how I was just talking about languages? Words of power are the Creator’s language — or, as much of it as we can speak. Only the Ascended and Ascendent beings can use them at all.”

“That … sounds like magic.”

“Shockingly, it isn’t. It’s what magic wishes it could be. Ah — this is more advanced study, but, what we call ‘spells’ or ‘magic’ are merely highly distilled Creator energy, filtered down through many layers.” Hesa fluttered one hand to indicate something falling, then swept a forefinger from the air to the table in one decisive motion. “Words of power bypass most layers to alter the Creation directly, similar to the way the Creator itself would. There are even more direct ways to achieve the same result, but those are reserved for the Ascended and the Creator only. That’s not to say you can’t cast spells — my suspicion is that you can, and should learn not just how to do so, but also more about your… well… command of words of power.”

“I don’t disagree with you, but I’m not exactly certain how I would go about accomplishing that.”

Hesa tilted her head down and fixed him with a pointed stare. “It doesn’t even occur to you to ask Celestial’s Prophet, who is sitting in front of you, for help?”

“That you are Celestial’s Prophet is precisely why I couldn’t impose upon you,” the Golden Paladin said firmly.

Hesa let out a small breath, placed her hands flat on the table, and stood. “You are our greatest — if not our only — hope. I know more than anyone how little we are told by those of transcendent mind — the gravity of what we are expected to figure out on our own. Consigning you to that fate, in this situation, when I could help, would go against everything I stand for. You dummy.”

After a long silence, the Golden Paladin said: “I’m not sure how to argue with that.”

“Then don’t,” Hesa said brusquely, and brushed past him with a pat on his shoulder. “Meet me in the field next to the camp in an hour.”

Haha, GP got called a dummy. And now he gets to learn to shoot fireballs! 

…Probably? Find out next time!

Metacosm Trivia Time!

So … if there’s a ‘true’ necromancer, and those are mages that seek to access or control the Thread of Death (therefore seeking Death’s direct power), then what is a ‘fake’ necromancer, and what’s the difference?

Well, to be blunt, almost all necromancers are fake. The ability to shove mana into a dead thing and make it dance around on strings of the Weave isn’t particularly impressive by magus standards. Not even if you have a whole army, which is rather seen as the cheap trick of an untalented hack.

But Death’s Thread contains the essence of Death, and is anathema to Creation itself. So, while thoroughly impressive, it would also be a huge problem if someone actually managed to pull it off. More important than just their potential to access the Thread is the way they seek it: by forcibly siphoning Life energy from hapless victims — usually for experimentation. By experimenting on Life energy, they believe they can find its opposite.

Bonus! Hesa didn’t just know the stave was created by a ‘true’ necromancer by the script; it was also made apparent by the energy within the stave. Magical energy contains residue of the body and mind it was filtered through. A skilled enough magus (like the Prophet of Celestial) can ‘read’ those traces and get a sense of the individual who wove the spell, like what their intention for the spell was, and how powerful they are.

N.A. Soleil is a portmanteau pseudonym of the two authors' names.

You can read previous Metacosm Chronicles stories in past issues of Tumbleweird.