Teachings of the Arcane: Reality
Copyright Ryan Span ©2001
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
young mageling must come to terms with many things, and dispel any
illusions...Reality is at the core of all magic, and a Mage of the Arcane
must clearly define his own...
Book of the Arcane, Second Segment, First paragraph
year had passed since Thanien revealed my false childhood, and our
relationship had changed much. No longer was he 'Master', and no longer
was I 'apprentice'; I was in charge of my own education now, and was given
the liberty of choosing a new name. From then on, I was Marcus.
more I was digging through the old mage's library, quickly committing to
memory the words of dusty, mostly-decayed tomes before they fell apart
completely. Thanien had
taken to resting most of the day, as his health seemed to be in decline.
He was upstairs in bed, as usual, while I threw myself into my work. I
wanted to learn as much as possible, my lust for
knowledge still as strong as ever, though I ever remembered the lesson of
hoarse whisper came from Thanien's bedroom, calling my name. I cursed and
put the book I was working on aside, wondering what the old bugger wanted
now. I guess I was a typical teenager then, rebelling against those who
wanted the best for me. For in the end, Thanien was a kindly man who
wanted me to become all that I could be. Up two flights of stairs I went,
and into the old man's bedroom. He managed a cracked smile as I entered,
and feebly gestured for me to come closer. I took another step and leaned
closer, unable to catch his wheezing whisper. With my ear almost on his
mouth, I could finally hear his words. "Marcus... My time has
do you mean, 'My time has come'?" I asked, puzzled. Then, I realized
the full weight of his words and gasped, "Thanien, you're
am, Marcus..." he wheezed and turned away, coughing hard. "I'm
I'll save you!" I said and stepped back. That thin, feeble form on
the bed gently shook his head.
if you could, I would not wish to be saved, Marcus..." He drew in as
deep a breath as he could manage. "I have lived long enough... Now,
it is up to you to continue the legacy..."
I cradled his head in my arms, not wanting him to go. I loved the man,
even after the hurt he'd caused me. "What legacy?" I asked
hoarsely, choked by the lump in my throat.
will know..." he whispered, then convulsed sharply. "The book,
Marcus! The book!!" With that last cry his body sagged to the bed,
and I knew Thanien Stormbound was no more. I took a step backwards,
looking at my former Master's lifeless body, tears streaking down my eyes.
What book was he talking about, I wondered under the grief. And...what if
this is all another illusion? I gently shook the body, but no response
came. Another step backwards followed and the lump in my throat gave way.
Loud sobbing filled the room as I crumbled to myknees.
minutes I knelt there crying, until suddenly the floor under me shifted. I
struggled to my feet and tried to stay upright as the floor sagged
downwards, and the ceiling started to cave in. Wooden boards and stone
melted into rough sand before my eyes! I struggled to keep myself above
the writhing, coiling flow until suddenly it all stopped. As I opened my
eyes, I could see
the sky; a sight so alien it sent my mind reeling. A green haze greeted
me, flecks of light sparkling everywhere throughout. There was no blue
sky, no stars, nothing I was used to. This was another world.
found myself kneeling on a pile of sand, under a strange sky, surrounded
by an unfamiliar
landscape. Birdcalls and the buzzing of insects were there, but subtly
different. Everywhere on the rolling hills was low grass, and here and
there a couple of stone pillars reached up to the sky, crystalline leaves
dangling like wind chimes in the breeze. I started to sift through the
pile of sand to search for something-anything-I could use to find my way
to civilization, or at least survival.
now and then a harsh, stinging gust of wind blew another layer of sand
away, and at last I found a leather backpack buried deep beneath the
remains of the tower. Dragging it up, I shook the sand from it and
searched inside. There I found a robe, similar to the one I was wearing,
some rationed food, a compass and a very old book. It was amazingly well
preserved for its obvious age, as there were no tears or missing pages.
The cover bore only one sentence, one that I have become intimately
familiar with over the years. It said: Book of the Arcane: The Ten
Teachings. I'd never seen it before, not in Thanien's library, not
anywhere. Yet somehow, I knew I'd seen it before. I knew it was important.
this be the book Thanien meant? Where am I? What is this place? Moments
later I was back on my feet and taking a few aimless steps in no
particular direction. A feeling of being completely lost filled me like a
blanket of fear drawn over the sky, and then wrapped around my neck,
choking me slowly and sadistically. I stumbled to a hilltop and was
immediately buffeted about from behind by harsh trade winds, exposed
outside the small protective valley where the tower had stood. Desperately
I shielded my eyes from the stinging wind and sand, trying to find my
direction with the compass. So with no real choice of direction or
destination, I pressed on.
of lights sparkled overhead as I trudged onward. These green heavens were
perplexing and fascinating, yet at the same time terrifying and dark. I
didn't know where I was, where I was going, I wasn't even sure who I was.
I couldn't stop wondering if this was all a lie somehow, and I had no
perception of what was real and what wasn't. I realized I'd lost sight of
Reality. And then, of all times, it started to rain.
farking great!" I cried in anger. "Of all the bloody
times--" In the blink of an eye I was
startled to silence by a huge bolt of lightning striking a tree only a
hundred feet away. That single thunderclap was enough to send me flying in
the wake of a massive shockwave. Suddenly, I found myself flat on my
stomach against the rough, spiny grass, pain throbbing throughout my body.
My foot was stuck in something and I tried to free myself, but even with a
hard tug it wouldn't come loose. Crawling backwards, I found myself stuck
in some strange metal contraption, and I heard a snap as my other foot was
snagged as well. Fear raced through my veins and I let out a helpless
scream, clawing at the grass as I was slowly dragged under the ground.
dull pain throbbed through my body as I lay on my back facing some kind of
ceiling. Yellow stone bricks surrounded me in a small chamber only a few
feet across, with a single door facing due north. "Where did I get
dragged off to this time?" I moaned and got to my feet once again.
Inspecting the door, I found it was something similar to obsidian,
jet-black and very much clashing with the yellow bricks. Faces of alien
creatures were carved in the doorway, and I softly touched the door to see
how much dust had accumulated on the thing.
was surprised when, with a loud click, the black door slowly creaked open
and allowed me a peek beyond. Behind the door was nothing; total
blackness, like night, but without even a single star. Every now and again
the earth shook with lightning, leading me to believe I hadn't moved far,
and reminding me where I was when my mind got lost in this endless void. I
hung onto the doorframe, trying to see beyond the blackness, though one
rumble of thunder was enough to shake loose my precarious hold. I floated
aimlessly into the darkness, excess motion making me spin so fast it made
me sick. For minutes I desperately grasped around for something to hold on
to while my stomach less-than-gently emptied itself through my mouth. My
flailing arms finally contacted with something solid I couldn't see, and
suddenly the floating sensation ceased. I crashed down to a floor,
groaning with pain.
is becoming a very unpleasant habit..." I grumbled to myself as I got
up for the third time. I found myself in a tiny square chamber with two
doors, one locked. With no idea what direction I was going in, I reached
for my compass. Its arrow spun around like crazy, leaving me with no idea
where to go. I put my hand on the unlocked door's handle and gently pushed
it downward. "Here goes nothing..." I whispered, followed by a
resigned sigh as I opened the door all the way and fearlessly stepped
a second time my senses were assaulted by an entirely new world. It looked
very, very much like home, but more vibrant in some strange way. The
colours were brighter, the smells sweeter, the birdsongs more melodic... I
ran my fingers over the soft green grass, and it rippled under my touch
like a gentle breeze had come over it. An old memory surfaced, a vision of
what the world was like when able to see what lay beyond the surface. All
the grass, all the trees and all the warmth died in moments and suddenly
it started snowing furiously. I shivered with cold as I tried to stay on
top of the mounting snow, everything seeming so incredibly dead, but a
minute later it all melted away. The grass and flowers started blooming
again, the trees grew leaves in seconds and once again this intensified
world bloomed with life. Somehow, deep inside, I knew this was the place
Thanien had shown me.
I called out. "Master! Are you there? Can you hear me?" My body
warmed to the summer, and again a full year's worth of seasons passed by.
No answer came, except that suddenly a bright white door appeared out of
nowhere. Time seemed to freeze in the gentle spring, and I made my way
closer. What on earth could a door be doing here I asked myself as I
walked around it. It didn't seem to go anywhere, but I noticed a small red
key lying in the grass. I picked it up and gently inserted it into the
keyhole, and with a slight twist the door swung open, revealing another
antechamber and another door.
is getting repetitive... I thought as I stepped inside, and the white door
slammed shut behind me. Before I could even touch the other door's handle,
it simply vanished, yet when I tried to step through, the pack on my back
suddenly increased in weight a hundred-fold and I was dragged to the
floor. My nimble arms slipped out of the straps and I opened up the pack
to find out what the hell was going on. The strange book I found inside
was glowing a fierce blue, and it seemed to weigh a ton. With a heroic
effort I got it out of the pack and into my lap so I could take a look.
flipped backwards through the pages and, to my surprise, found that most
were blank. Only the first few paragraphs were there, comprising the
entire first 'Segment', and the first paragraph of the second. My mouth
fell open as I read in detail how and why I had learned my previous lesson
of Responsibility, much more than Thanien had told me. Of the Second
Segment, two lines caught my eye. A young mageling must come to terms
with many things, and dispel any illusions.
Reality is at the core of all magic, and a mage must clearly define
his own. Somehow they sounded familiar to me when I read them out
loud, but I managed to shrug it off. As I closed the book, I noticed
something on the inside of the cover. I gently folded the cover open
again, and found a scribbled message.
This is the Legacy, Apprentice. This Book, and yourself.
The Apprentice and the Book are ever the last of the Arcane. Once, your
Master was an Apprentice like yourself, learning his own lessons. What
you have been through so far is only the beginning. Go out, young
Apprentice, and learn; the Book will record. Learn about the world,
about yourself, and most of all, about the magic. Keep it alive, young
Apprentice. Keep it alive at all costs. The best wishes of the Arcane
go with you.
Parvi, First of the Last
Many of my questions were answered when I first opened that book, and many
more were raised. There are still questions I have no answer to, but if I
do not learn them, some future Apprentice will. The magic will never die;
I have sacrificed too much to let it. I snapped the book closed and shut
my eyes tight, not wanting another look at the thing. Quickly I tucked it
deep into my pack and slung the thing over my shoulder, entering yet
another unknown place.
time I was surrounded by thick blue mist, a soft glow spreading through it
to give it a mystical, magical sheen. The air tasted dry and stale; the
smell of age. Under my feet was a small circular slab of stone, hovering
over a seemingly endless abyss that faded into the mist. As I squinted
ahead, a path of these strange stones became clear, and with great care I
managed to walk it all the way to the end; a stairway carved into the face
of a massive pillar. Not knowing what else to do I ascended the steps, and
at the top a small pedestal awaited me. On it was a book; from the
outside, it was the exact duplicate of the one in my pack. Step by
cautious step I approached; yet suddenly the book opened with a loud thud
and the sound of a spark. Gracing the pages was a single sentence: Why
are you still here?
mind was in turmoil. Random thoughts surfaced in a boiling meltdown of
chaos, but two questions kept ringing through my mind. Where are you?
Why are you still here? I couldn't make sense of anything. Memories of
my childhood, my teachings, books, friends, games... All of it was meshed
together yet nothing made sense. Still, the questions repeated
themselves...Why are you still here?
scream of agony escaped my lips and echoed endlessly off unseen walls,
never seeming to lose strength. My thoughts sprang to the book on the
stand, and something else was written there. I tried to look more closely,
but I couldn't control my mind or my body. Still, the questions came. Where
are you? Why are you still here?
I gasped as everything suddenly became clear. Effortlessly I floated a few
feet into the air, and then set down on my feet again. It all made so much
sense now. At last I had an answer.
am in my mind," I answered the questions in a soft voice, but the
sound seemed to thunder through the whole room and shake it.
WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?!?
wry smile twisted my lips. "I am no longer here." With a
blinding flash of light everything vanished, and my own world swam back
into view. The familiar smells, the feeling of grass under my boots, and
the great pile of sand where a great black tower had once stood. Neither
the sudden flash nor all these changes could make me flinch. I had grown. From then on I was a mage, with all the unimaginable power
that came alongside such a title. My mission: to explore my magic, to
learn its consequences, and to continue the Teachings of the Arcane so
they would never fade away.