This chaper is dedicated to Feroci0us.
Time deceives us all.
Blacksmiths are not unaware of the fact that time is but an illusion. All of them have experienced the difference in time awareness while hammering away at a Masterpiece. The dull beating of the hammer over the anvil. The way that the relentless pounding melts away in the resounding rhythm in the head. The way that when finished, days have gone by, and yet, it did not feel that way.
But this was the opposite. Time slowed down for him. As that dagger slowly, ever so slowly, dropped down. It almost seemed as though gravity itself were pulling it.
The way he could see her flaming red hair, billowed out behind her, remnants of her struggle against the chains that bound her in midair.
The madness in his friend’s eyes, looking at nothing but his target.
His mouth opened, and he knew his voice erupted out of his lungs. But he did not even know what he said. It was unimportant.
What was important, was her tiny voice, that called out his name, as he watched a single tear slide down her chin, his helpless angle preventing him from seeing her face. But he could hear her voice, that pained voice reached him. And the light glistened off that single tear.
He knew time was an illusion. But what he also knew, was that what he was seeing, was not an illusion.
Time deceives us all, and we can only wish it were not so.
The dagger stabbed into thin air. His eyes widened, looking at where he knew she had been only a split second before. He could see strands of her hair falling down from where he had intended to plunge the dagger.
Looking down, he saw her laying on the ground in front of him. The chains were gone. Where were the chains he had summoned?
And only then, did he realize. His magic was gone. Slowly being drained out of him, and he felt weak.
Furious, he glared at the surroundings, to see a figure step out of the brushes. The Blacksmith was struggling to get up from the ground, but the period of being chained had cut off most of his blood flow. The Blacksmith was going to be out of commission for a while. He could see tears dripping down from his old friend’s face. How sentimental, he thought.
The new figure was dressed in archaic garb. The most striking features was a glowing, pulsating mark on his forehead, and a gigantic volume held in one hand, the pages turning aimlessly without a visible wind to blow them, as if the book had a mind of its own.
He tried to stand, but his legs would not obey him. The magic was being drained out of him at an astonishing rate.
The figure spoke in a soft voice. “Your magic is mine.”
The Summoner glared in hatred at the figure. “You have no right to steal my magic,” he spouted. “If you are what I think you are, then you of all people should know the true meaning of magic, and its true form. It belongs to me!”
“If that is your philosophy, then why did you try to rob her of her life? Her soul? They are one and the same. What is the difference between my taking of your magic and your taking of her life?”
“She has no more magic! I made sure of letting her enjoy the full usage of it. Right now what I am stealing is not magic. You, however, stole mine!”
“By stealing her soul, you rob her of the ability to regain the use of magic. You are taking away her source.”
He knew his limits were almost up. His magic was almost gone. Slowly, every movement a momentous effort, he reached near the sack of hearts he knew lay nearby.
“You do not have enough magic for a summoning, Summoner.”
“You do not have the right to lecture me, Silencer! How dare you accuse me of robbing people’s souls when your very Order is built upon stealing the souls of your Masters!”
The Silencer paused.
“I know of the history of your Order very well,” the Summoner continued, while drawing a pentagram slowly in the dirt behind his back with trembling fingers. “An old book hidden in the very heart of the Library of Adkarna. I happened upon it during my studies as a Summoner. You killed your own Master for his powers, just like each of them did in turn, did you not?”
“That is not true,” the Silencer tried to respond. But the Summoner wouldn’t let him. It was important to distract the Silencer.
“It was written by Maliken himself,” he continued, “he met one of you a long time ago, while conquering the Order of the Chapel. One of your kind had taken refuge with the Chaplains, recording their texts into what was called the Great Book. Maliken was the only outsider in history to ever witness a Ceremony, hmm? And to his great surprise, the Master that Maliken had come to know died, right in front of his eyes.”
“It is called the Ceremony of Preservation! I, that is, we, my Order, we exist to protect knowledge! Myself included, each and every one of us would be more than willing to sacrifice…”
“It does not change the fact that you stole your Master’s soul for yourself, in order to gain his knowledge and experience. You are no better than me. In fact, you are worse. Your very own Master, how could you?”
The Silencer was visibly shaken. It was working. The Summoner was almost finished with the summoning circle, but it was unfinished as of yet. He needed to buy more time.
“Maliken noted that the Silencer he met used a weapon called glaives. You seem to be unarmed. Your stealing of experience and memories has not prepared you at all for the world.”
The Silencer suddenly seemed aware that he was without a weapon. He tried to respond, opened his mouth, but seemed incapable of coming up with an answer. The summoning circle was complete.
His magic was spent now, but he knew another way. Flipping the dagger in his hand upside down, he bent his wrist and pricked his own skin. Blood immediately welled up. He let the blood fall freely onto the circle.
The Blacksmith had finally gotten his limbs working again. Jumping to his feet, he rushed forwards. “He is escaping! He will summon…”
It was too late. With a cloud of ash, the ground erupted and it appeared. A daemon he had summoned specially for this, one with the powers of instantaneous movement.
The Blacksmith and the Silencer raised their arms in an effort to block out the ash blocking their line of sight. The Summoner looked at the Blacksmith with pity. His friend would need to be guided to the truth some other time.
Hauling the sack of hearts in his hand, he allowed the daemon to pick up his weakened body.
Without looking back, he replied, “Until next time, Masamune. Treat her well. She is uninjured.”
With a flash of fire, the daemon and the Summoner disappeared.