Keening: Part 1-A Sudden Storm

“Come on now, you’re supposed to be a simple spell,” growled Lorcan.

Lorcan stood in the center of the chapel, arms aloft, grunting from exertion. He was trying to summon Isa, the Norse rune of ice, drawing its shape in the air with his hands, concentrating with all his might to will the magic into existence. But, to no avail. No matter how hard he concentrated, no matter how much of his being he dedicated to the creation of the rune, he felt nothing- no magic flowing through his body, no sudden inspiration or understanding. Instead, he just felt frustration, and was constantly reminded just how foolish he looked, due to Puckleflup and Dobble snickering in the rafters above him.

Eventually, arms sore from lifting and waving them about, Lorcan ceased his efforts, and collapsed onto a nearby bench. He sighed from exhaustion, rubbing his eyes. “Honestly old man, I don’t know what you expect from me,” he muttered. To be honest, Lorcan didn’t know what he himself expected. When Dyn Hysbys had brought him to the World Vein, he had felt so confident, so sure that he could now unlock his potential. Now…well, he’d be lucky if he could conjure a snowflake.”

A voice snickered above him. “He looks like he’s trying to do some kind of dance.”

Lorcan looked up into the rafters, where Puckleflup and Dobble stood, giggling and cackling wickedly. Puckleflup was waving his arms, twirling and tapping his feet in some kind of jig, while Dobble clutched his side, tears of mirth streaming down his face. Lorcan glared up at them, thinking some very un-priestly thoughts. Oh, what he’d give for a filet knife.

Th goblins’ mock play continued. First, Puckleflup paraded around, nose up, chest out, while Dobble bowed, crying, “Hail Lorcan, the great wizard!” Then the two began jumping around, thrusting their arms out at each other, making explosion sounds, as if in a wizards’ duel. Then, they flopped over and began laughing again.

Finally, Lorcan had had enough. Exasperation had been boiling in him all day, and he was not in the mood to tolerate those two pests. Lorcan leapt to his feet, pointing at the goblins. “Silence!!” he roared, startling the goblins, who scrambled to hide. “Enough! I’ve had en-“

BOOM

A resounding wave of sound shook the walls of the chapel, sending Dobble and Puckleflup flailing to the floor below, and throwing Lorcan backward over a bench. He landed awkwardly, his head hitting the seat behind him. Immediately, everything went black.

Suddenly, Lorcan was in a field, green and expansive, the moon shining dully upon him from above, rays of light leaking through the light cloud cover. He whirled about, causing his head to smart sharply. He groaned, clutching the back of his head. “Where am I now?” he moaned. What was it with him and being knocked unconscious all the time? He had to be the most accident-prone individual in all of England. Lorcan looked around. The field he was standing in seemed familiar. Was this another vision? What did he have to see here? Most of the time, on the nights he had these vivid dreams, he only saw a decaying forest, and…he shivered. That dragon.

As he turned around, Lorcan froze, realization striking him like a hammer. Before him, appearing from thin air, was an old castle, dimly lit from torches. “No…”

It was a monastery; the very one that Lorcan had been sent to study at as a young man. But, what was this vision to mean? The monastery was gone, ransacked and burned by viking raiders. This was not the first time he had revisited the place in his dreams, but he had always been reenacting a memory. Now, he was just behind the the old fortress.

Then, from inside the monastery came the sounds of steel clanging, and cries of pain and fear. This was the very night that the Vikings had come. Once again, he was powerless to stop it. Lorcan remembered with awful clarity the night that he had lost all of his friends. They had been warned by passing merchants that the Norse raiders were coming their way, but none of the priests had agreed to leaving the monastery behind. Lorcan and his friends had taken it upon themselves to walk the old battlements and watch for signs of oncoming danger. Without warning, the Vikings had gotten past them, and slain everyone. Everyone, except Lorcan.

Urgency overtook Lorcan, causing him to run along the side of the wall, trying to find the secret exit in the dark. Whichever lord or king had owned this castle, he must have been paranoid, for he placed a secret door along the back wall of his fortress as an easy escape from attack or assassins. He knew it was futile, but Lorcan couldn’t help but wish that he could dive into the fortress and save someone, anyone. After frantic several frantic seconds of searching, Lorcan found the door. The door, made of light brick, rather than solid stone, lurched open as he pulled on it.

The second it opened, a figure popped out, nearly running into Lorcan. Lorcan jumped back, his new battle reflexes kicking in. It was Dorian, Lorcan’s oldest friend, the first person to befriend him when he came to the monastery. Dorian’s eyes were wild and filled with grief, several cuts and burns staining his simple priest’s clothing. He grabbed Lorcan’s shoulders, shaking him slightly. “Come on Lorcan!” he cried, pulling Lorcan away. “Come on, we have to go!”

Lorcan, still startled, numbly looked back into the open passageway. “But,” he muttered, “the others…”

Dorian shook Lorcan again, bringing his attention back. Tears were spilling down his face, mixing with small splashes of blood and dust. Dorian shook his head, his voice low and faltering. “They’re gone, Lorcan. They’re gone. We can’t save them now.” Suddenly, sounds of shouting and clanging metal began emanating from the secret passage. The raiders had found the exit. Dorian grabbed Lorcan’s wrist pulling him away from the door. “Run!” He shouted. “Run!”

Dumbly, Lorcan followed Dorian, sprinting with him toward the nearby woods. As they ran, Lorcan looked over his shoulder. The Vikings, some with swords, others carrying bows, were following them, a lifetime of bloodlust speeding them toward their quarry. Lorcan and Dorian were almost to the cover of the trees, but Lorcan knew it wasn’t good enough. No matter their speed, they would never make it to the woods. The raiders stopped, drawing their bows, aiming for the pair. Knowing in his heart for it to be in vain, Lorcan shouted, “Dorian, get down!”

Dorian looked over his shoulder, realizing the danger, but too late. Arrows whistled overhead, missing Lorcan narrowly. Dorian was struck in the back, crying out as he fell to the ground. Lorcan called out in grief, slowing to a stop, and sinking to his knees beside Dorian. Hot, angry tears splashed to the dirt in front of him as Lorcan reached for Dorian, turning him over, and pulling him close. Dorian was only stirring faintly, but his eyes were still perfectly focused, staring intently at Lorcan.

A sudden wind picked up around them, shaking the trees lightly, as the sky began to darken. Lorcan grimaced up at the sky. How many times must he see these things? Had he not punished himself enough for the death of his friends? How long did he have to be tormented by the worst night of his life?

“Did you mourn for me Lorcan?” asked Dorian. Lorcan jumped, looking down at Dorian. This had not happened before. Dorian’s eyes were calm, his voice steady, without a hint of pain or accusation.

Bewildered, Lorcan slowly nodded. “I still do.”

Dorian smiled sadly at him, as his eyes began to dim. “I need you to promise me something, old friend. Promise me…” his voice drifted. “Promise me you’ll bury me.”

Lorcan nodded again, vigorously. “I promise.”

Dorian was already gone. Lorcan knelt there, clutching Dorian’s body, silent tears dripping from his face. As he knelt, harsh laughter reached his ears. The raiders were now closing in, swords ready for an easy kill. They circled Lorcan, laughing and barking insults in a harsh tongue he didn’t understand. One of them, a large, brutish red-haired one, began mock-crying, mimicking Lorcan’s posture, driving greater laughter from his companions.

Rage burned within Lorcan, giving his mind an awful clarity. Right now, he hated these men more than he had ever hated anything. Dark thoughts boiled and surged within him. These men were nothing more than animals, and they needed to burn. Lorcan turned his face up toward the raider before him, who stood, wailing and laughing at Lorcan. Lorcan raised his palm toward the man, speaking in a deadly calm voice. “Get. Away. From. Me.”

BOOM

A thunderclap shook the ground around Lorcan, cracking the earth, and throwing the Vikings off their feet. Lightning flashed in the sky above, the wind elevating to a roar, the sky completely obscured by roiling black clouds. The vikings scrambled to their feet, eyes wide and terrified. The brutish one stumbled to his feet, regarding Lorcan with horror. Despite the storm raging around him, Lorcan heard the man whisper, “Av gudene, hva er du?”

An enormous bolt of lightning flashed, and the raider vanished, instantly turned to ash. With cries of fear and garbled prayer, the Vikings ran from Lorcan as fast as their legs could carry them. They could not, however, evade the feelings of rage and power that Lorcan now felt coursing through him. With a push of his will, lightning came down from the heavens once again, each flash signifying the death of another raider. Several minutes later, the shouts of the Northerners in the distance were silenced, and no sound but the wind could be heard on the plain.

Lorcan looked down at Dorian, who lay still, eyes staring unseeing into the sky. Lorcan sighed, grief flooding through him, dampening his anger. The magic he felt pulsing through him lessened, and faded away. As it did, the wind slowed to a slight breeze, and the clouds above him dissipated. As the power left him entirely, Lorcan began to weep. shoulders shaking as he held his friend. “I couldn’t save you,” he muttered despairingly. “I couldn’t save anyone.”

A hand rested gently on Lorcan’ shoulder, making him jump. He spun around, laying Dorian on the ground as he stood. He stood face to face with the woman from his visions. She was tall, as tall as he was, with dark hair and piercing eyes, dressed in a blood-red dress. She stood before him, impassive, haunting, staring into his eyes with an intensity Lorcan had never seen in any man.

“Wake up.”

Lorcan started awake. He sat up quickly, making him dizzy. The aching on the back of his head returned, making him clutch the sore spot. As his vision cleared, the figure of Dyn Hysbys came into focus. The old man was crouched next to him, his hand resting on Lorcan’s shoulder. His eyes were concerned, a faint hardness to them, as if he disapproved of something.

“Are you alright boy?” asked the old man.

Lorcan nodded, grimacing as his head stung with the movement. “I…yes. Yes, I’m fine.” He looked around him, moving slowly so as to minimize the pain in his head. The chapel was in utter disarray. Benches and tables were lying on their sides, cloth and silverware from a hurried lunch lying on the other side of the room. Dyn Hysbys narrowed his eyes at him, as if looking for something in Lorcan’s eyes. “What…what did I do?” asked Lorcan.

Dyn Hysbys did not answer immediately. He stared at Lorcan a moment longer, then stood, helping Lorcan to his feet. “It seems,” he said, letting out a long breath, that you are more powerful than I first thought.”

Lorcan gave the old man a questioning stare. “What do you mean? I’ve been practicing that ice rune all day, and nothing has happened. I can’t seem to do magic at all, I just…” He scanned the room again, noting the destruction. Had he done this? He thought back to his vision, the storm he had caused. He HAD felt magic there, he was sure of it. Did that mean anything in a vision? HAD he caused this?

Dyn Hysbys spoke, “That was storm magic, boy. It’s a branch of Nature magic. Powerful, but volatile when not under the control of a Rune to focus it. I sensed it while I was in the woods and came as quickly as I could.” He looked seriously at Lorcan. “This is a powerful magic; not the kind one can just conjure. Tell me what happened.”

Lorcan wracked his brain, fighting through his growing headache. “I…I was just practicing the ice rune, like you said, but I couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried. And, those two goblins kept mocking me, making it harder, and I just-” Lorcan shrugged exasperatedly. “I don’t know. I suppose I just snapped.” He paused. “Though, there was something afterward.”

Dyn Hysbys raised his eyebrow. “Well,” said Lorcan, “it’s like this…” Lorcan described his vision to Dyn Hysbys, explaining the situation to him, how it was from a memory, and how he always seemed to be having visions and dreams like this one. The old man stood quietly, nodding every now and then, as if studying Lorcan’s words. When Lorcan explained his inexplicable control of a storm in his latest vision, Dyn Hysbys’ brow furrowed, his face betraying a troubled expression.

As Lorcan finished, Dyn Hysbys paused a moment, taking it all in. Then, he spoke, “Lorcan, magic is a difficult thing to understand, and more so to control. Dreams such as these are coming from an instinctive use of Vision magic, and they are historically unreliable and frightening. I myself can’t even find the meaning in them for you. However, there is something more.” The old man pointed his finger meaningfully at Lorcan. “You were able to conjure the power of a storm only through your emotions- anger, rage, bitterness. These passions have led many a sorcerer down dark paths from which they seldom return. Taking the route of dark magic is faster, and grants you great power, but it will inevitably destroy you, and everything you hold of value in this world. You have a responsibility to yourself, and to those you hold dear, to control this power, and check your emotions, rather then let them control and use you.”

Lorcan looked down, ashamed. Had he really done all this by losing his temper? He thought back to the monastery, to that storm that had appeared out of nowhere. The first time that had happened, the actual day the monastery was attacked, there had been a storm then, too. Had he caused that as well. If Dyn Hysbys was right, he, Lorcan, had summoned magic strong enough to decimate a band of Norse warriors, and burn the monastery to the ground. He shivered, partially from a sense of thrill, partly from fear. No man should be able to hold that kind of power.

The old man must have seen Lorcan’s fear, for he placed a hand on Lorcan’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. He spoke with a gentler, more fatherly tone. “Lorcan, these are great powers you possess, and I know you have a great potential for good. But where there is great potential for good, there will also be a the temptation of taking the easy way, and giving in to evil. I do not believe you to be the kind of man that will do great evil, but it will take no small effort on your part to learn control over yourself, and your power. For this,” he asked, lifting Lorcan’s eyes to meet his, “I ask you to promise me one thing. Promise me you will not give in to your darkness.”

Lorcan nodded. “I promise.”

Dyn Hysbys stood a moment longer, then let go of Lorcan’s shoulder. The old man looked solemn, but relieved. “Very well then.” He strode toward the front of the chapel, gesturing for Lorcan to follow him. “You’re growing powerful very quickly, and I believe I know now what I should have you learning. Come with me, we’re going to the World’s Vein. There is more I need to show you.”

Lorcan hurried after the old man, eager to learn more. But, as he walked, Dorian’s words came back to him, repeating in his mind over and over. “Find me again, old friend. Promise me…promise me you’ll bury me.”

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What do you think the next step is for Lorcan? What do Dorian's last words mean?

1 thought on “Keening: Part 1-A Sudden Storm”

  1. I have to say Lorcan, you put Lorcan through some of the craziest experiences! I also love how ol’Dyn has kind of attached himself to you. That is such a great development of character for both of you.

    Hmm… I think you’re in it for the ride, Lorcan. You might as well call yourself Frodo and hold on to Gandalf’s beard with where I think you’re headed 😜.

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