Joshua Olsen’s Cantrips & Catastrophies
A Magic: the Gathering Fan Fiction short story
The cultivated fields of Valeron would normally be full of the hustle and bustle of Bant citizens tending to their crops, but not now. Now the farmers had been replaced with soldiers and the only thing on the soil was blood.
“It’s all their fault,” thought Mage Kellot of the Sighted-Caste, as he ground another zombie into the battlefield. The moaning creature’s head turned to mush beneath his foot and the body stopped writhing. Around the Rhox, the battle between the forces of Bant and Grixis raged, a mass of courageous soldiers struggling to stem the tide of the invading undead.
Angels and demons sliced through the sky, engaged in immortal combat, while Aven soldiers conducted hit and run attacks against huge zombie behemoths that snapped at them in frustration. What had been two ordered battle lines engaging had devolved into a frantic, chaotic clash; with every combatant watching their own back. Bantian soldiers hacked down the zombies with their gleaming swords, and in turn were pulled apart by rotting hands.
As one of the few mages thrust into this chaos, Kellot looked for opportunities to turn the tide of battle in favor of virtue. With his massive build, typical of the Rhox kind, Kellot could see head and shoulders over the human-sized combatants all around. A short distance ahead an ogre-sized mass of corpses had been crudely stitched together and then animated by one of the Grixis necromancers. The shambling creature was hurling squires away as though they were rag dolls with a host of arms that sprouted from all over it like spines. Drawing on White Mana through his steel mage’s battle-staff, Kellot pointed the sapphire head at the disgusting creature and let the Mana loose, casting a simple ensnarement spell.
Instantly the undead horror’s form was bound in magical chains, shackling its many arms and rooting it to the spot. Immobilized, it was soon overwhelmed and chopped apart by the squire’s blades.
Looking up Kellot saw a lesser angel struggling to take down a colossal demon. With a laugh like a chorus of pain, the demon lashed out with a whip made from some colossal beast’s spine, and caught the angel across the wings. Blood arched through the sky as the angel began to fall, the grinning demon descending after it like a predator moving in for the kill.
Quickly Kellot channeled another spell, ignoring the exhaustion beginning to overtake him after nearly an hour of constant battle. In a split second the falling angel was restored, as holy White Mana replenished her body and sealed her wounds. In an instant the angel had ceased her falling spiral and surged back up to the demon, spear extended and a prayer on her lips. Kellot followed up by blessing the angel with a spell for some extra divine might, and watched as the angel’s spear tore through the demon like a hot poker through a scroll page.
As Kellot elbowed aside a skeleton warrior, shattering it into broken pieces, he heard the cry of awe that went up from the angel’s victory turn into a wail of dread. Nearby, a proud Sigil-bearing paladin, a veteran of a countless honorable duels and proud example to all Bant’s citizens, was struck by dark sorcery – a hundred sharpened pieces of bone ripped through the knight’s armor, the knight, and his steed. The attack was clearly magical and Kellot felt his blood surge anew despite his exhaustion. One of the foul necromancers was nearby! At last, an opportunity to take vengeance on one of the dreaded beings responsible for this invasion!
As the knight’s punctured body hit the ground with a rattle, Kellot traced the spell’s path to a figure who had gained some height on the battleground by standing on a pile of bodies. Kellot sized up the figure he would strive to slay.
In contrast to Kellot’s sapphire-capped steel staff, the necromancer clutched a heavily carved wooden staff topped with a severed hand, presumably preserved with magic. His weapon was not the only contrast to Kellot. While Kellot was a hefty, solid Rhox, the necromancer was an extremely lean human with very pale skin. A ragged cloak fluttered behind him despite the still wind. And while the top of his head was obscured by an impressive helmet made from the skull of a Nayan plowbeast, his mouth was exposed revealing a dark grin with pointed fangs. Kellot’s hand gripped the shaft of his staff that much more tightly. Not just a necromancer then, a vampire.
With singularity of purpose, Sighted-Caste Mage Kellot moved towards the vampire.
Crack! Kellot brought his staff down on the vampire’s head, sending it reeling. The vampire staggered but quickly recovered, lunging forward with a snarl and a clenched fist. Kellot braced himself against the blow, and absorbed the punch with his huge palm, gripping it tightly. The vampire was incredibly strong, as much as Kellot himself, but Kellot had the advantage in weight and height; and more importantly he knew how to use it. As soon as he had a firm grip on the vampire’s fist he pulled back hard, yanking the necromancer bodily off its feet. Kellot brutally slammed the vampire into the dirt with a whipping motion. Without pause he pulled again, smashing the vampire into the ground again. Before the vampire could move Kellot had the tip of his staff pressed against the necromancer’s throat, the staff’s head thrumming with magic.
“Do you have any final words, Abomination?” asked Kellot, preparing to deliver the deathblow.
The vampire grinned, tongue slurping up a trickle of blood leaking from its mouth. “I do. Are you a Mage, or is your staff just enchanted?”
Kellot frowned, confused by the question. “I am a Mage of the Sighted…”
“Oh, good, I was afraid this would be over too soon.”
Before Kellot’s eyes could widen the vampire struck the Rhox wizard in the chest with a stream of shadows as solid as lead. The force of the shadow spell launched Kellot into the air. At the end of a short trajectory Kellot ploughed through the surrounding melee of Grixis and Bant warriors, his heavy frame and momentum hurling unfortunate allies and enemies in all directions. When he came to a stop, Kellot beat at the shadows as though he was aflame, dispersing the darkness before it could attempt to entangle or consume him. The threat averted Kellot got to his feet, locking eyes with the smirking vampire who was striding forwards through the death-soaked battlefield as though through a beautiful field of flowers.
“Come on! Don’t you want to play again?” called the vampire, raising his arms in mock frustration. “Don’t give up on me yet! The fun is just beginning! C’mon, give me your best shot…”
The necromancer was dangerous, and powerful. He had to be dealt with quickly. Kellot knew the only way to do this was to use maximum force, no time for subtlety or strategy, just raw power. Letting out a long breath and closing his eyes, Kellot summoned every particle of White Mana he could into his being, drinking the energy in from the land around him like a parched man at an oasis. He could feel the magical energy brimming under his skin, thrumming through his blood, a holy and pure force.
Gripping his staff in both hands he aimed the sapphire head right at the vampire. Not the time for subtlety, Kellot roared the spell’s verbal component with all the righteousness he could muster. A thin but solid lance-like beam of pure sanctified light roared out of the staff’s head, as dangerous as any bolt of lightning.
The suddenness of the attack took the vampire off guard. There was none of the clichéd, heroic preamble he had come to expect from the weak do-gooders; no grandstanding moral speech to announce an impending attack; just a beam of hungry magic heading right at him. A normal opponent would have had no time to react, but despite his surprise the vampire had inhuman reflexes on his side and he reacted with unnatural speed, unleashing his own spell; a soul-sucking ray made of raw evil.
The two streams of opposed magic met each other en route to their targets, clashing like starved wild beasts. Each wizard suddenly felt a drain on their energy as the spells tried to destroy each other, both fuelled by huge reserves of raw Mana. As the clashing spells bucked and thrashed against each other it became clear to each mage that this would be a titanic struggle and that to win, one of them would have to summon more magic than they had ever summoned before.
The battle raged on and Kellot and the vampire lost themselves in their contest. Teeth gritted, hands gripping their staffs with white-knuckled intensity, they forced out all the power they could into their spells. The war around them faded into unimportance, it didn’t matter now. The sounds of swords clanging and zombies groaning ebbed away, the frantic movements of combatants fighting for their lives seemed to grind slowly to a halt in their peripheral vision. The two combatants just shut it all out, entirely focused on their one goal: the destruction of the other wizard. Sweat dripped down their bodies as they exerted themselves, their muscles strained and protested; but neither backed down.
In between them the forces of light and darkness battled, two elements anathema to each other forced into contact. The White and Black Mana roiled and thrashed, sometimes the white would pierce the black mass like a lance, almost cutting it in two, and then the blackness would almost swallow the light, only to be forced back again.
Minutes, or it could have been hours, ticked away but neither Kellot nor the vampire could gain a lasting advantage over the other, much less destroy him. Kellot was exhausted as he had never been in his life, tired to his bones and deeper, no mage was supposed to funnel Mana at this intensity. Kellot was literally forcing the Mana out, pushing it forth in great bursts, and it seemed as though the necromancer was doing the same.
A involuntary shudder ran through Kellot’s body, a sign of the incredible strain he was putting himself under, but the Rhox clenched his jaw and just kept pushing. The task was all that mattered. The task was to kill the vampire. The vampire must be destroyed. Good must triumph. Ignore the pain. Ignore the exhaustion. Good must triumph. Any moment now he would surely win. He just had to hold on a little longer. A little bit longer. A little bit longer… minor spasms rippled through Kellot, but he simply focused on keeping his arms still. Still chanting inside his head with the intensity of a maniac, Kellot forced himself to actually take in what his eyes were showing him for a moment.
The vampire was speaking, but Kellot couldn’t hear anything over the crackling of the warring spells, which roared in his ears so loud that it was started to verge on white noise. The necromancer seemed to be spitting out a continuous stream of what was probably vile curses if Kellot was correct, but he couldn’t hear them. The clash of spells had grown larger, as though they were feeding some over-stuffed animal. The writhing disturbance was almost obscuring the combatants, and seemed to both suck in and hurl out light at the same time.
Kellot had pushed all his limits, he had broken his pain barriers and who knows what else, smashed them into dust, and even the focus of the chants wasn’t helping now. His strength was failing; he had no more Mana or stamina left to give. His arms slowly but surely dropped and his torrent of White Mana began to lesson to a trickle.
The vampire saw a final chance at victory. Though he was also exhausted and under incredible strain – the extent of which had began to cook his brain inside his head – the necromancer seized the chance with the fury of a shark smelling blood. Drawing upon his last resources (and condemning another small piece of his sanity to oblivion in the process), the vampire sent a sizeable chunk of Black Mana out through his staff. Without the energy to contest this development, the necromancer’s darkness spell was finally the ascendant power and began to shunt Kellot’s light beam out of the way. Deflecting the light like a mirror, the ball of pitch-black death approached at a steady rate. Kellot struggled to do something, anything, but there was no Mana left. He was just a ghost in a shell.
As the death spell pushed agonizingly closer to its target, Kellot saw the self-satisfied grin on the vampire’s face. I’ve won, it seemed to say. You were a worthy opponent, but it’s over now. And at the sight of that grin, something within Kellot’s mind snapped, some part of his rational mind just released the catch on something pent up, or perhaps repressed. The foul creature would not defeat Mage Kellot of the Sighted-Caste. Evil would not overcome good. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.
The air crackled with static, the ground split. The very battle seemed to stop. A glowing nimbus of blinding Mana surged through Kellot like lightning out of a cloud. It slammed into the spell’s meeting point, and this extra contribution of power was the tipping point. The clash of opposing energies was too much for the fabric of reality to take on in its current form. With a piercing whine that shattered glass and crystal throughout the battlefield, the combined Black and White Mana compacted and imploded inwards until the nearly house sized mass turned into nothing bigger than a crystal ball. But it didn’t stay that way for long; a split second later the concoction reversed and erupted out into an exponentially growing blast sphere of impure yet powerful magic.
The vampire’s jaw dropped and despite the glare Kellot’s eyes widened in astonishment. Neither had time for more than that before the energy blast engulfed them and seconds after that it exploded out for kilometres around, devouring the countryside, as though hungry for more. The entire battlefield disappeared into the phenomenon’s belly. Trees instantly rotted into slimy remains and were scatted on the gale force winds, soldiers and undead alike blasted into calcified statues. Nothing was left of a sizeable portion of the Valeron fields except a smooth clean crater.
As soon as the explosion touched him, Kellot felt his soul blaze with something unknown. He physically felt, through some sense that was not touch, a dark and evil power pour into his being. The touch of White Mana, always a comforting sensation in the past, now burned him as though he was within a volcano. Kellot could feel his heart beating as loud as hammer blows and within his chest something blazed like a dying star. His mind staggered as it tried to translate the incredible metaphysical sensations into actual physical feelings, but the task was beyond him.
Kellot opened his mouth to cry out, to scream, to pray, to articulate something. Before he could utter a sound, his pupils contracted until they almost disappeared and his whole world went black and then there was nothing.