Friday, 12 September 2014

Shadow and Light

I shall not smile, thought The Pharoah.

Members of the Shining Sun stood round him in overlapping circles, arranged all over the many decks of the Deliverance Engine. He had personally instructed the acolytes in its use. Not that user error could be entirely eliminated, of course.

But these weren't cultists, hoping for quick power through risky means. Or acolytes, mere mules to haul energy. These were scientists, the finest minds of their generation. Some were his fellows of old from the Light College, men and women he'd graduated with. They'd all worked hard for this.

At the cardinal axes stood Foci, the senior elected members of the group. Not that all of them could really be considered senior, exactly. Somebody had been picking off many of the original founding members.

Somebody who had been dealt with.

The Grey Wizard was trussed and bound. A chunk of obsidian had been wrapped in a gag and slotted into his mouth. Arcane wind sinks were engraved into the copper bowl he lay in. There would be no tricks, no illusions to hide behind.

It was very satisfying to have caught the assassin at last. He'd been trying to steal part of the equipment for the ritual, presumably hoping to delay or disrupt it. To no avail. The Pharoah had suspected some kind of attack would come, since the debacle at the Museum. It was easy to assume Light Wizards of being unable to set traps or tricks of their own. Hysh was too unwieldy to manipulate with subtlety, that was the assumption.

Perhaps so. It did take colossal effort to wield Hysh. Years of practice and theory, plus the ignominy of slaving for the masters, wasting your time and health by straining to supply their rites with power.

What one could do, however, was stopper up reserves of the thick, stiff wind, keep it pent up behind a sorcerous dam. Ideal for laying snares. The Grey Wizard walked right into one. He was still blind and semi-conscious from the blast when The Pharoah had found him, his beard burnt to wisps. Most satisfying indeed.

All the same, it would be unbecoming to my station to smile, he thought. This is a moment that requires supreme gravitas. Finally, the work of the Shining Sun would bear fruit. The winds of magic, suitably chained, could be used to infuse a new generation. Master wizards, pre-primed with a supply of power that would be more than sufficient to eliminate the demeaning use of acolytes for years to come.

He lifted the knife high.

"Light shall pierce the shadows!" he called.

Killing the grey wizard was nothing to do with the ritual, of course. It was revenge, and all the sweeter for providing a certain amount of amusing window dressing. If you liked amusement. The Pharoah could take or leave it, personally.

He picked up the scroll on which the final incantations were depicted, and began to read. He certainly wasn't smiling.

It was more of a rictus grin.

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