The World’s Vein

“Hurry up now, or I’ll leave you behind!” called Dyn Hysbys. He paused a moment from his hurried pace, looking back to see a red-faced, panting Lorcan, who was clutching his side.

“Me?” gasped Lorcan, trying his best not to look like he was tired (and failing to do so). “I have you outmatched old man. You don’t stand a chance against my youthful stamina and athleticism.” His legs felt as if they were full of hot metal, and his lungs like they were being slowly smothered by a shrinking ribcage.

They had kept up a quick-paced walk for about an hour, and it had taken its toll on him. He had been afraid to leave Dyn Hysbys behind, feeling somewhat guilty that he was making an old man walk in the woods without so much as a walking stick. Initially feeling excited and full of energy, had chosen to stay close to Hysbys’ side, to ensure he didn’t become tired or hurt himself on some snaring root. Oh, the arrogance of youth! Lorcan’s legs had found more things to trip on than he had felt possible, and his legs and sides had started to ache some time ago. Dyn Hysbys however, had not missed a beat. He had plowed on, ignoring the obstacles in the path, and walking briskly without so much as heavy breathing to indicate any fatigue. Lorcan had agreed to come out here to learn a lesson in magic from the old man, but it seemed that he was going to receive a lesson in humility instead.

Dyn Hysbys raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?” He looked Lorcan up and down, and smiled mischievously. “Boy, you couldn’t out-walk an iceberg. You couldn’t even keep up with a frail old man like me.” He tilted his head back to the path ahead of them. “We’re nearly there.” He turned away from Lorcan, and resumed walking forward.

Grumbling, Lorcan followed the old man through the trees. Perhaps he should have asked Haute for tutelage. Granted, he was likely to disembowel you, cheat you, or steal your soul, but at least he wouldn’t make you exercise. “Frail old man like me,” he muttered to himself, trudging off to regain some ground on his quarry.

After a few more agonizing minutes, Dyn Hysbys stopped, holding up a hand for Lorcan to follow suit. They stood at the edge of a clearing, surrounded by some gnarled, yet sturdy trees. The ground seemed somewhat elevated, though it was covered with snow, leaves and twigs, and therefore difficult to distinguish from the rest of the path. The branches, though bare, domed above their heads to block out most of the light coming down on them. Dyn Hysbys walked out into the clearing, stepping up onto an unseen platform, and stood in the center of the clearing. He turned slowly in a circle, taking in his surroundings and smiling wistfully. “Ah, what a wonderful place,” he whispered. “It’s hardly changed.”

Lorcan didn’t think the whole place by itself was terribly impressive. It seemed to be just like any other clearing. But, Dyn Hysbys had chosen this specific space as the site of his first lesson. He followed his new teacher into the clearing, stepping up onto the raised platform, finding it hard beneath his feet. He looked around, trying to see if there were any distinguishing features that would call to mind anything to do with magic. Nothing. But then…Lorcan inhaled deeply, soaking in the ambience of the place. There did seem to be something about this small pocket of the forest. It was subtle, impossible to notice unless one took a moment to enjoy the quiet. It felt…reverent here; it felt solemn like a graveyard, or a battlefield. Something in the air made him feel as if he were in a place of great primeval importance. He faced Dyn Hysbys, and lowered his voice to ask, “What is this place?”

Dyn Hysbys snapped out of his reverie. “This,” he said, gesturing broadly to the trees around him, “is a place of learning. It is an ancient, hallowed spot, and it has sat here long before the settlers arrived in the ancient days of TerraSylvae. Over the centuries, mages, druids, aspiring sorcerers, all students of magic came to places like these to learn of the powers that flow through this world.” The old man stood, straight and resolute in the center of the clearing. He raised his arms and, looking seriously at Lorcan, said “Behold, Lorcan MacBroin, the Seal of the World’s Vein.”

Green light glowed beneath the blanket of snow and foliage beneath them; then, a tremendous gust of wind erupted ffrom the ground, throwing snow, earth, and twigs into the air. Lorcan was forced to shut his eyes, covering his face with his arms as the debris was thrown from the circle as the wind howled around him. After a few moments, the gale began to fade, and Lorcan chanced opening his eyes slightly. The clearing they were standing on was made of a dark, smooth stone, with lines and shaped carved into it that he couldn’t seem to see perfectly. It was as if the designs on the stone were moving, undulating, rippling through some unknown power. Dyn Hysbys stood, hovering slightly, green light swirling about him like a fog, his eyes radiating confidence and strength. He beckoned to Lorcan, his hand outstretched.

Lorcan advanced toward his mentor, his mouth slightly parted in awe. He had heard rumors that Dyn Hysbys possessed some kind of power and knowledge that most did not. Certainly, he had a talent for appearing in unexpected places, or knowing odd things, but never once did he really give any signs of hidden powers or magical prowess. This however, was quite real. Lorcan himself had felt power within himself before, and he had been told that his bloodline had been endowed with magical power, but as he looked up at Dyn Hysbys, standing in the circle, literally radiating energy, he understood what real power looked like.

He stood at Dyn Hysbys’ side, and immediately all sound and movement ceased. The Hysbys descended to the ground again, and laid a hand on Lorcan’s shoulder. He motioned to the sides of the circle with his eyes, directing Lorcan to do the same. “Tell me boy, what do you see?”

Lorcan looked around him. It seemed as if the trees were alive, watching him stoically from outside, separated from them by a wall of wind and light that gave the clearing a beautiful glow like the Northern Lights. “I…” he began. “I…I don’t know what I’m seeing. It’s beautiful. Powerful. But, I don’t know what it is.” He turned to Dyn Hysbys, who was smiling faintly. “What is this place, really?”

“Let me show you,” he replied. He stepped away from Lorcan, closing his eyes, and began to mutter in a language Lorcan couldn’t understand, but somehow FELT within his mind. The words were old, certainly older than any language he knew of. He wasn’t entirely sure the words preceding from Dyn Hysbys’ mouth were even in a human language. As the old man spoke, the light writhing and swirling around him seeped into the ground, and spread throughout the carvings etched into the ground beneath them, filling them like water. There were ancient symbols and shapes among the lines and circles forming, words of ancient meaning and power, untouched and unseen by the outside world.

And then it was done. The liquid light sat motionless beneath their feet. Dyn Hysbys returned to Lorcan, and placed a hand on his shoulder, as Lorcan’s legs suddenly felt very weak. “Just breathe,” he said, soothingly. “That’s it, steady now. You aren’t used to sights like this yet, but it’ll pass.”

Lorcan had to swallow several times before his capability of speech returned to him. “W-what kind of power does this place hold? What did you mean by the World’s Vein?”

Hysbys paused, collecting his thoughts. “This, as I said, is an ancient place, built upon a spot of ancient creative power. This energy, this magic, as it is called, is a force that has existed before the beginning of this world, and is the very power that shaped it, and made it into the home we know today. Founts of raw power like this exist all across the earth in hidden, sacred places, usually unseen or unconsciously avoided by the common man. These are concentrated wells, channeling the powers that shape and govern this earth, and all the creatures living upon it. Since the birth of man, some have been drawn to wells like this, and have learned to harness this power, and used it for learning, growth, and protection. Not all magic is benevolent and life giving, and there are many who will corrupt this power to use it for their own gain, or to destroy. Some places, some founts like this release evil, malicious powers, and seek to dominate this world. Mages like myself however, learn to use magic to keep these forces at bay, and protect the world from those that would seek to rule it. This particular place has a Seal placed over it, made by ancient mages to better channel this magic, and strengthen the magical borders of Woodland against the dark forces of the outside world.

Lorcan’s head was reeling from the sudden flood of information. He understood Dyn Hysbys’ words- he was being very clear, and he showed no signs of dishonesty, but this was far beyond anything Lorcan had imagined. He had thought magic something…something…less complicated at least. He had thought magic to be an abstract force, a skill to be learned, a skill with mostly indifference to the outside world. But, good and evil forces, world-shaping power, mages, it felt like too much. “Where do I fit into all of this?” he asked. “This is no trifling thing, so who am I in the big picture? I’m just a priest! I-” he paused, looking dejectedly away. “Who am I to pretend I’m some kind of mage, or defender?” He said that last sentence almost as an excuse.

Dyn Hysbys made a pained, sympathetic smile. “A fine question. I can see that you are beginning to understand. You have a look of fear in your eyes; hold on to that, it’ll do you good. You mustn’t become callous or irreverent with magic; this is indeed no trifling thing. You are dealing with real power here, and you must be careful if you are to learn it, and use it for good. Too many have grown impatient or arrogant, leading them to the easier, doomed path of evil.” He straightened Lorcan, who had been doubling over, suddenly out of breath. “It’s true, we’re very small creatures, humans. There are more of us than can be counted, but we are by no means the most powerful race out there, nor the most dangerous. Our lives are short, our bodies feeble, and our minds so easily swayed. But,” he held a finger in front of him, pointing meaningfully at Lorcan, “do not sell yourself short. The importance of a life goes beyond the length of our life, or the greatness of our power. We are also living beings, so we must have considerable importance in this world, even if we don’t see it. You have some worth yet, Lorcan MacBroin, and so help me, I will have you discover that.”

Lorcan did feel better, encouraged by the old man’s kindness, but he still felt overwhelmed. He nodded slowly, breathing deeply to clear his head. “Okay…okay,” he said. He straightened up, looking firmly into Dyn Hysbys’ eyes. “What do I need to know about magic? The most basic thing I need to start with?”

Dyn Hysbys guided him to the edge of the platform, where sat a number of glowing circles running around its circumference, each housing a symbol that seemed to buzz with energy. “There are different classes or studies of magic that you will have to learn in order to control your powers. Each branch’s power will stem from the strength of your will, and your mind. The stronger your will, and the more flexible and intuitive your mind is, the stronger your magic will be. The first class of magic is what we call Soul magic. This, when learned, gives you mastery over your mind, body, and spirit. With sufficient strength, you can do anything from healing your wounds, to moving things with your mind, to projecting your spirit into the astral plane. To learn this, you will need to discover peace within yourself, and be firm of purpose.

Lorcan perked up. Moving things with his mind? He had done that before. In the spur of the moment, he had thrown Haute across the room, and encased him in gold temporarily. “I think…I think I’ve experienced this magic before,” he said. “I think I can already do this in a small degree.”

Dyn Hysbys’ eyes widened interestedly. “Really? It isn’t uncommon for some that are latently talented with magic to unconsciously or accidentally to conjure some manner of spell. Well then, I’d say we’ve likely found the branch of magic that you’ll be learning the fastest for now.” He moved on to the second circle. “This here is representative of Binding magic. Pacts, oaths, vows, and bonds are common in human culture, and rely on the honor of those involved to fulfill their contracts. Magical pacts are even more serious, and can often go unnoticed, such as one man being obligated to serve or help another man who has saved his life. Binding magic will allow you to recognize and create bonds between people, beasts, or even nonliving things. You will create connections that will bind things to your will, and allow two unrelated things to share properties and strengths.”

The old man was excited now, animatedly guiding Lorcan to the next circle. This is representative of Vision. Mastering this will allow you to increase your vision and influence throughout time and space itself. Through the use of Scrying, you will be able to see places that you’ve never been, and pull through the strands of time to see things that have past, and even things which may yet come to pass. Nothing will be hidden to you, as your eyes will penetrate reality itself, and you will see through the different planes of existence.”

The next circle contained a symbol that Lorcan, to his surprise, was familiar with. It was the Web of Wyrd, a powerful rune in the Norse pantheon. Ul’vade had shown it to him; it was a powerful rune that contained the shapes of all other runes, allowing you to summon all Asgardian magic from it. Dyn Hysbys smiled at Lorcan, noticing the look of recognition on his face. “Yes, I thought you might recognize this one. This is Rune magic. Symbols, language, and writing has been one of man’s greatest achievements, but it’s power often goes unrecognized. Here, you will learn symbols, hieroglyphs, and words of ancient power. By gaining a subconscious understanding of how these forces function, you will be able to speak languages of higher beings, and draw symbols in the air, summoning their powers.”

The next symbol was somewhat easier to recognize. Within the circle sat four squares, each containing a symbol recognizable as Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Dyn Hysbys nodded. “Yes, the symbols are starting to be more straightforward, aren’t they? This is the branch of Nature magic, revolving around the control of the four elements, and even the beasts of earth, from soaring eagles to creeping insects. You will learn here that you are not controlling these powers, forcing them out of their place to do your bidding. Rather, you become part of them, acting as one with the elements, and restoring balance to that which goes against nature, like the body fighting off disease.”

Dyn Hysbys, clearly eager to get started, rushed a little on the last two circles. “Here we have Temporal magic, which is considered one of the easier classes of magic. This will include the use of objects that have been imbued with magical properties. It is the study of these relics and their powers that will allow you to wield them, and perhaps even create them in time.” He and Lorcan stopped in front of the last circle, the symbol being another circle, with two vertical lines going through it. “And the last thing there is,” said Dyn Hysbys, with a waving gesture, “is Druidic magic. Through this, you will learn of medicine, healing, and potion-making- what powers the herbs and plants of the earth hold, how and when to harvest them, and in what manner they are prepared to create potent cures and give the partakers strange powers.”

Dyn Hysbys sighed contentedly, coming to a stop, and looking eagerly at Lorcan. “It’s been an age since last I showed anyone these things, Lorcan MacBroin. I won’t lie to you, learning to control these powers will not be easy. It will test you and break you down to your very foundations. You might at times feel that you are going to die, or that you’ve gone mad. Most days, you will want to flee from this place, and forget you ever heard of magic. But, I promise you, if you dedicate yourself now, and push through the pain and frustration, you will learn magic. There won’t be anything that is not possible, and you will discover knowledge and secrets beyond the grasp of ordinary man.” He straightened, standing erect and majestically, boring into Lorcan’s soul with his eyes. “So,” he said, “what are you willing to give in order to learn these things?”

Lorcan swallowed nervously, staring back at Dyn Hysbys, whose eyes were again radiating the same fierceness and power as when he had awakened the Seal. He wondered to himself, ‘Could it even be possible that I could learn these things? I’m naught but a human, and a young, inexperienced one. How could I learn such powers?’ But then, he HAD at certain times been able to conjure magic. Certainly, with instruction, it had to be possible. He wasn’t the only person in the world that knew magic, nor did everyone use it for good. He pictured Haute, malicious, bloodthirsty, greedy, turning the needy into his victims, his…playthings. Even Titania, though not inherently evil, was still a selfish, arrogant creature. She was supposedly a more reasonable Fae Queen, but still possessing Fae cruelty and indifference. Demons, dragons, men, there were those of every race that caused destruction and suffering- he had been a victim of that himself, to some degree, and he couldn’t always stand to the side and act as if he couldn’t do anything about it. There were good people out there- people like his comrades in the Order of the Rose, people like Lucan, Adeline, and Lysander that wanted to live happily, and did all that they could to help others do the same. No, he couldn’t back away knowing that the power to protect these people was within his grasp.

Lorcan looked back into Dyn Hysbys’ face, his eyes matching the old man’s fierceness, his mind firm and resolved. “I will give everything.”