Before the weather reminded me that I now in the PNW and spring can be both picture-postcard pretty and a misty, chilly grey, I took a notebook to my favorite table at Victor Steinbrueck Park near Pike Place Market, sat in the sun, and wrote whatever came to mind. It was as much to see if I could get anything accomplished while at a public venue as it was to enjoy the sunshine. I got a few things written down, not as much as I’d like, but I work better on a computer than a notebook. This is one of the things I jotted down.
This isn’t a story as much as it is a prologue…perhaps the voice-over of a book trailer. It’s a budding idea, a teensy, tiny baby plot bunny in its most ambiguous form. Not even a framework, but an idea that will lead to ideas if I let it form. I’m not certain it’ll ever become more than this, but I liked it well enough to share.
Magic never left our world. Not really. It got pushed into the shadows, belittled and defiled. Its practitioners were called charlatans at best, tortured and hung at worst. It morphed from a power that created unimaginable beauty and absolute destruction to a carnival trick that relied on lights and mirrors to distract the eye. But it never, ever disappeared.
In ancient times, those with high magic were honored and respected. Worshiped. They were holy men. They were gods. In times of drought, they called forth rain. In times of war, they decimated their enemies. They conjured great beasts for their mounts and their amusement. These beasts live on today as myths and legends.
Nations created great monuments to their glory. Some out of reverence, others out of fear. A blessed few raised them in love and gratitude. These were the nations that flourished. Atlantis. Thinis. El Dorado. Helike.
But man evolved.
He gazed upon the monuments he erected and asked why. Why revere wielders of magic when men of intellect and ingenuity achieved equally astonishing feats? The door, once opened, could not be closed. The seed of resentment, planted in decades of fear and envy, took root like a noxious weed and spread.
Contentment became unrest. Envy grew into anger. Man turned his intellect away from building monuments and toward building weapons. Whispers slithered through the night-darkened streets. They spoke of death; they spoke of war.
Then the plagues struck. Man watched their neighbors and loved ones suffer and die. The wielders of magic remained untouched, safe behind their wards and powers. The whispers grew stronger.
New religions grew from the pain and the suffering and the rage. They blamed the mages for bringing this death upon their people.
Stung by the betrayal, the wielders of magic responded in kind. They were not to blame, they announced to man. It was the wrath of this new god, punishing those who had turned away from their protectors.
Man watched and listened, and when he spoke, he rejected them both. Theirs would be a world of reason and hard work. Ancient magic could not compete with their weapons; the new gods failed beneath the scrutiny of their intellect. They had fought a silent, strategic war and won without fighting a single battle.
For centuries, they ruled, these men of reason. They stoked the fires born during those years of sickness and death, fueled the flames of hatred between men of religion and wielders of magic. Through spies and infiltration, they nudged their opponents like chess pieces. Theirs were the hands that crafted the Code of Hammurabi, the Twelve Tables of Rome, and the Salic Law.
They whispered in the mages’ ears of betrayal, spun stories of resentment and envy and greed. The wielders of magic read the codes, mourned their less powerful brethren and sisters, and responded. Capturing their enemies, they twisted them into creatures of legend—vampires, lycanthropes, zombies—and unleashed them upon the faithful. They crafted powerful curses and laid them upon famous items: the Hope Diamond, the tombs of the Pharaohs, the Björketorp Runestone.
The war continued…and the men of reason rose to power on the bloodied bodies of their enemies. East Prussia. The Inquisition. Salem. Jonesboro.
But power gained through others can be taken by others. Religion has risen in the world. So has magic. No longer content to hide in the shadows, pawns to reason’s ambition, each group will fight to regain their former glory.
Regardless of the cost.