Greetings SKALD-fans! I’m currently doing a lot of world building and design on the magic-systems and users of the SKALDiverse (more to follow). In that regard I wrote a very short fiction about what it feels like to cast a high-level spell that I though I’d share with you.
For next week I plan to do a world-building article about the different “courts” of mages and probably a project update as well.
Stay safe and have a great day – AL
Her voice was hoarse from exertion, but the thin line of soldiers that surrounded her obeyed without hesitation. The guards’ polished, silver-inlaid armor and crested helms marked them as among the finest soldiery of the Constellation.
Alryna grabbed the officer by his pauldron and bellowed into his ear over the din of battle.
“We must buy more time for the garrison! I need two minutes. Your men must hold!”
The man’s face grew ashen. She held his gaze, unwavering, until he set his jaw and nodded determinedly. The line would hold – it had to.
Two sharp notes sounded from the officer’s flute. The signal pierced the low rumble of heavy, marching feet and snarling beasts that surrounded the beleaguered rearguard. Reacting instinctively, the soldiers adjusted their left flank.
Alryna unclasped her cloak, and the rich, crimson fabric was whisked away by the canyon’s howling wind. She adjusted the cords of her mage-harness and closed her eyes as another wave of flesh-eaters smashed into the thin, silver battle-line.
As she drew a breath, the chaos of battle grew muffled: as though perceived from deep beneath calm waters. Becoming a battle-magos took years of training – and it had been hard for Alryna – but she had persevered and now the shadows of her doubt had been almost completely washed away by the raging force of the Reticulum. Almost.
Here it came! The now-familiar feeling: first like brushing a finger over an enraged and icy river; then the sudden shift of perspective as if stepping off an unseen ledge in the darkness or feeling your mind expand in that instance when you fall asleep and begin to dream.
Then the stench of charred hair and flesh flooded the battlefield – wait – not yet! These were pre-memories! The Reticulum felt unpredictable and dangerous: Like a wounded beast.
A storm brewed – not one of rain or lightning – but a maelstrom of heavy light and thrumming harmonics that refracted into unnamable colors. And Alryna at its eye – willing the maelstrom of Reticular energy to infuse her very being.
The chains of her harness began to crackle, the energy arcing towards the silver plated armor of the men around her. Common men would flee in horror at the touch of that terrible light – burning them without heat. Even the hardiest of veteran would relent under the maddening howls that rose during great manifestations of the Reticulum.
But these were not ordinary men. They were elite legionaries, handpicked to fight alongside, or even against, those who wielded the forces of the Reticulum. And so they did not break. Not as rank upon rank of flesh-eaters had their flesh scoured by Reticular light. And they did not break, chanting their hypno-indoctrinated litanies as the howls drove the flesh-eaters insane with fear.
Though Alryna could no longer feel her legs, she was aware of the ground shaking. She stood now at the threshold, her self-hood slowly peeling away like white petals of the orchids that grew in the Imperial Gardens. Suddenly there was a lull in the carnage. The enemy’s charge faltered. A brief moment of respite, perhaps? Alryna knew better than to hope – no, this was the eternal doubt – but her steel heart would not yield.
“Hold the line!” She forced the order from behind grinding teeth. She could only hope the officer heard her over the din of chants and wails.
Their foe began to reorganise. The flesh-eaters who had fled from the first charge were trampled to death by the onrush of fresh monstrosities. The thin, silver line could not hold them back. But she hoped they could slow them down.
“HOLD!” She cried again. As much a prayer as a command – she needed more time. Three sharp notes from the officers pipe signaled the assault and the dozen remaining silver ghosts charged against the oncoming horde. A hopeless charge but Alryna would spend the precious seconds their lives bought well. She cried out in pain and rage, and the sky turned inside out.
For a brief glimpse she saw golden spires rise above lush primordial forests.
The ragged column of men had retreated well beyond the canyon. Now, they stopped in their tracks as the ground heaved. The captain’s horse reared in panic and a second later he saw a blinding flash cut through the canyon far behind them, like a rend in the sky. He gasped in awe as the canyon walls shrugged and then crashed down into the valley, causing another violent tremor. His stunned men cowered in terror.
Then the stench of charred hair and flesh flooded the battlefield and the men began retching.
He had been terrified of her from the moment she arrived. Terrified of what she represented. Now they were alone. Even if they managed to hold the city until reinforcements arrived, the High Court would surely scapegoat him for the loss of the priceless Battle-Magos. But that would have to wait. She had bought them time to take that chance, and he swore to reserve his final blessing for that terrible woman in the crimson cloak.
He tore his eyes from the distant carnage: “Make haste for the city-walls!”