“Don’t do this.”
That’s my teacher. Shellan. She taught me everything I know about magic. She taught me to channel my life energy to work wonders. And she was always there to comfort me afterward when I would writhe and scream in agony.
“I’m not afraid!” I hiss back at her.
“I know! But you should be!”
That’s just her fear. She doesn’t understand. For centuries mages have been bound by the pain our magic causes us – proportional to the power we expend. It is the first principle Shellan taught me. She called it the blessing. She was so short-sighted.
“Without the blessing,” I tell her. “We will be free to act without limit. Free to right the wrongs of millennia! We are losing this war, Shellan. If we don’t remove the blessing, it’s over!”
“Then we must lose it!” She implores me.
But that’s just her being stuck in her ways. She doesn’t see the potential. She is afraid of things she hasn’t grown up with. But future generations will look upon me as their hero. Perhaps as their god! The savior, freer, or magic from the yoke of proportional pain.
“If there is no price for power, there can never be balance in the world!” Shellan cites the holy text, and I laugh at her. That’s just a bit of paper with pretty words printed to console those who can’t see what they could become.
“Please.” She implores me. But it’s too late. I’ve already started the separation, a ritual I’d found in the archives after my ascension.
“What about your oath!” She hisses. She’s throwing everything she can think of.
But I don’t even hear her. It’s happening—all around me. I feel the unshackling. It’s like a tickling shiver. Like my body had baked in the sun for a year and a day, and then I fell into the cool relief of frigid water.
“What have you done?” Shellan shakes her head as I stand up and smile at her.
I reach for the power then, I swirl it around me, and there is no pain. There is only potential. I keep reaching and gathering, and it doesn’t hurt! It doesn’t hurt! Not at all!
More and more and more and I can see music and hear colors! More! Gathered, like a billion blankets against the worst of winters! And there is no pain! I would weep for joy if I cared about such silly things as tears and eyes and bodies.
And then, and only then, do I start to understand.
I try to look for Shellan. But I’ve destroyed her already. I didn’t even notice. I’ve destroyed the temple as well; there is nothing left—no spire-filled city. No country. Everything is gone—consumed in one breath. In one inhale of unchecked power.
So quickly! It was – I was – I didn’t –
I let it go, and there is nothing. I am alone.
The war is won. The war is lost.
© 2021, Aaron Zimmerman. All rights reserved.