Joshua Olsen’s Cantrips & Catastrophies
A Magic the Gathering FanFiction short story

*Part one can be found here.


There could be few harder materials to traverse when you weigh more than a knight in full regalia than coins. Every footstep brought a mini-landslide of them away under his weight, threatening to send him tumbling down, or treacherously gave way, trapping his short legs thigh-high in a heavy grasp. Kallorn was soon gasping with exertion. His staff, always a trusted and valuable travelling companion, could give him no purchase here, and every handheld just came away in his grasp.

“You look ridiculous you know,” chirped Dark. The vampire was stretched out, reclining cat-like on the side of the coin pile. “I must say, you sure are determined to get that Orb. You even asked me for a large favour, and agreed to my cost. That’s a first.”

“You’ll get what you’re owed. Now do you mind shutting up? I’m busy here.”

Another two steps forward, another stride back.

Of course, Dark didn’t take that opportunity to shut up. He wasn’t the sort to stop talking if he felt like talking in the slightest, and that went double where Kallorn was concerned. He continued to muse aloud as Kallorn manage to grab a hold of a gleaming breastplate that was half buried in the pile. Tugging, Kallorn was gratified to find that the heavier weight of the armour made it more stable, and he began to look for other pieces to act as anchors. His progress up the treasure increased.

“Not that I doubt your commitment to repaying services rendered, but the unusual thing is that you asked for help at all. You would as soon swallow a dagger as obtain my brand of ‘help’. So what could you be willing to stoop for? Kal, what does the Orb do?”

“It’s nothing special, just a healing aide. Something to help with all the headaches and fevers your magic causes me.”

Dark shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. What was it the priest said? “One to protect the mind…. one to guard the body, and one to….. blast, what was it…..”

Kallorn grasped the rim of what appeared to be a part of a submerged chariot, hauled himself another blessed metre closer to his goal.

“….one to guard the soul. Kallorn.

Kallorn looked up. Dark was there, right there, right in front of him. Standing on the surface of the coins, looking down at him. Blocking his view of the orb. His smile was gone, and a scowl was on his face that Kallorn knew heralded suffering. Kallorn gritted his teeth.

Black- Mental Agony

“Does your soul need some guarding, Kal? Perhaps you wish to be free of an unwelcome passenger, huh? YOU PIECE OF DUNG.”

Dark clenched his fist tight, and Kallorn’s whole body blazed with the acid-burn pain of his soul coming under assault. No matter how many times he had felt its searing caress Kallorn could never prepare for or withstand Dark’s most unique punishment. He screamed, and around the treasure pile the remaining zombies took it up, dead throats letting out pained moans.

“How does that feel? Huh, Kal? You like that? You think you can just grab that paperweight and wipe me away? Squirm, you son of a maggot!”

He clenched again, howling with rage. His hand was curled into a claw, mangling the air. Mangling Kallorn. The agony shook Kallorn’s body like a leaf in a storm. It took everything he had to maintain his grip on the chariot and not fall. When his eyes focused again, Dark was in his face, his smooth features twisted with hate, transforming him into something bestial and ugly. Thick, vaguely purple veins pulsed in his face, and he had ripped his lips while speaking, causing blood to trickle from his slashed mouth.

“You are going to regret this little teenage rebellion, crusader. Oh yes. I am going to make you suffer in inventive ways….”

Kallorn let the words fade out. It was all hate and spite and intent so evil that he didn’t want to hear it anyway. All that mattered now was the Orb. The Orb was salvation, and it lay just a metre and a half away. It was going to hurt, hurt so much that fear welled in his chest. But he could do it, would do it. Kallorn quickly plotted out a likely course, and prepared himself, bunching his muscles for movement.

“…And now it makes sense. Why you never wanted to know my name. Yes, I get it. Trying to keep me at arm’s length, not as a living being, just a thing, something you could destroy without hurting your precious morality. Pathetic. When you take a life Kal, you should be up front with yourself about wanting to do it. Just one of the things that I despise about you. You weak, simpering whelp! You aren’t the only one who can stay disconnected. Every day, every day, I remind myself of why I hate you.

Dark squeezed with relish, and Kallorn bucked. He could hardly hear his own screaming.

“Your self-righteousness.”

Clench. Scream.

“Your sad, near-constant moral agonizing.”

Clench. Scream.

“Your tolerance of the unworthy and feeble!”

Clench. Scream.

“Your naivety and the delusions that you make a difference!”

Black- Mind Rot

Dark clenched for the longest time yet, holding the torture till Kallorn started to black out.  When the shaking finally stopped, Dark stepped forward and knelt down next to Kallorn, hissed in his ear.

“You have been given incredible power, and you waste it! We could be ruling an empire that would last for a thousand years, but you would rather go around hovels and minister to peasants and scum! Pathetic.”

Kallorn’s voice was cracked and brittle. “Are you done venting yet? I’ve kind of got a lot of stuff going on to be focusing on another self-justifying lecture.”

Dark bristled.

“Oh, that is it! I am going to find the sweetest, most devout chapel in this land, and then I am going to make you…”

“No. You are not going to make me do anything ever again, Dark.”


Kallorn sprung forward like a stone out of a sling. His sudden movement took Dark by surprise, giving him a precious few seconds of frantic, nothing-to-lose movement. Ploughing through the coins explosively, Kallorn grabbed a protruding bust, using it for purchase he hauled himself off it to grip a stone dais just as the coins below his feet started to cascade away. Heaving a great gasp of exertion, he had just cleared the dais to aim for the last object, a huge harp of ivory, when Dark reacted. His hand clenched and Kallorn was struck by white-hot pain, but he knew this was coming. Even as his mind reeled, a small iron part of him spoke that he would never have to feel this again if he could just keep moving.

“No! I will not allow it! Fall, Kallorn! FALL!” screeched Dark. Kallorn shut him out, though that wasn’t much of an achievement when every nerve in his body was shrieking for attention in a rather more insistent way.

Muscles straining, veins rising like knotted ropes on his sweating skin, Kallorn took hold of the edge of the harp, gripped it so tight his knuckles creaked. The Orb of Warding was just there, just over the length of his arm away. But it sure felt like it was on an island across a sea. With a roar of pure animal determination, Kallorn pulled, muscles screaming in protest. He pushed off, diving for the Orb.

“NOOO!” screamed Dark in the background. There was real panic in his voice.

With an explosion of gold he smashed into the pedestal, somehow managing to grasp the Orb as part of his frenzied tackle. The momentum of his charge then took Kallorn down the other side of the treasure pile. He tried to curl into a ball, protecting the Orb with the bulk of his body as he tumbled. The outside world blacked out in a haze of pain, but as he fell Kallorn gripped the Orb with mortal intensity.

“Orb, shield my soul. I wish to be free,” thought Kallorn as the bottom of the pile of treasure rushed up to meet him.


With a massive crash, Kallorn come to a stop. Coins tumbled and clinked all around him. Suddenly the pain was gone, and Kallorn gasped, face staring up at the sky as his body tingled at the sudden change. Kallorn may have lain like that for some time, staring at the sky, clutching his hard-won prize, had not a scream taken up his attention.

“No. No, no, no, no, no, no! NO!!!”

Dark was writhing around on the gold. Dark streams of energy were streaming off him, flowing away and dissipating. The vampire was screaming, a pleading note in his voice. It sounded as though he was in pain, grievous pain.

“Ugh, it hurts… hurts so bad. You can stop it, Kal. Just put the Orb down. Please.”

Slowly, very slowly, Kallorn stood. Not a shred of mercy could be seen in his eyes.

“That’s not going to happen. You’ve had this coming for a long time. A shame it wasn’t sooner.”

Dark opened his mouth, as if to speak, but didn’t. His thrashing grew weaker. His movements slowed, like a clockwork toy winding down. Dark extended one hand to Kallorn, though whether asking for mercy or trying to torture was impossible to tell. Finally, with a whispering rattle, Dark fell back.

“You lied, Kal. You said it wouldn’t…” and then he was still.

Kallorn stood before Dark’s body, the Orb gently orbiting his hand. Savage triumph flooded through him. At last, after countless atrocities, the vampire was dead. Kallorn’s destiny was his own again.

“Yes, I lied. And I’d do it again.”

It was right then that Dark’s body started to move.


At first Kallorn thought it was some sort of after-death spasm, his mind projecting a natural event onto an unnatural situation. A moment later, Kallorn realised the shaking was laughing.

“‘Yes, I lied. And I’d do it again.’ Oh, Kal, Kal, Kal. Such a bad habit.”

Kallorn’s heart skipped a beat as Dark straightened up and stood. The dark energy that had been streaming off him whipped back, pouring back in rivers.

“You look surprised. You really shouldn’t be. You always were easy to fool. Is the Orb not living up to your expectations?”

Kallorn looked at the red Orb in his hand. This didn’t make sense. Unless…

“It’s a fake, isn’t it?”

“One sec. Just have to do a touch of cleaning.”

The last of the black energy poured back into Dark. As soon as it had come to rest, it exploded out in a huge wave, scything through the Temple of Silence. There were only a few zombies and Returned left, still slugging it out. As the expanding wave of energy passed through the zombies, they explosively ruptured without protest, corpses coming apart and sharp shards of bone hurled in all directions. The Returned had no chance. Shredded bodies hit the floor and lay still, but wisps of almost invisible energy sailed from their forms and into Dark, who drank it in eagerly. He rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, the picture of perfect vampiric health once more.

“Ah, that’s better. Now where was I? The Orb? No Kal. Not a fake. It was just never going to work. It was a decent plan on your end, but you are dealing with subjects far beyond your scope. Souls? That’s not really your thing. I get the thinking. ‘If the Orb wards Souls, then having it ward me should cast out my dear buddy, Dark.’ And it’s true, the Orb will protect you, for what it’s worth you need never fear possession again. But it can’t cure what is already ailing you. I was here first, it can’t work on me. So sorry.”

Kallorn’s head fell. His dream, reduced to dust. Dark had outwitted him with considerable ease. Still trapped with a monster.

“You knew I was lying, didn’t you?”

Dark smiled.

“From the very beginning. You are not very good at it. Don’t worry, it’ll come with practise. I’m quite proud of you, truth be told. You tried to murder me, and lead me to the slaughter unknowing. How… diabolical! Where’s the honour, Kallorn? I thought you Bantians valued it more than life itself. Such falling standards. But don’t worry. We won’t tell anyone, eh? If they ask, we can always… lie.”

Kallorn’s head spun, and he sank to his knees. Disgusted, he let go of the Orb, but rather than roll away it floated up and began to orbit his head, winking its faded red light. Kallorn drew in great shuddering breaths, mixed with coughs as Dark sauntered over.

“This has been fun and all. But business calls. You asked for my help in getting the Orb, you have the Orb. Now, it’s time to return the favour. There’s a priest further in who is in possession of a scroll that has magic on it I want. You will help me get it, yes?”

Kallorn rose, stiff as an old man. He picked up his mage’s staff. Head down, unable to look at Dark, he walked.  

“Are we going to have to hurt anyone?”

“Oh yes, I’d say so.”

Kallorn stopped.

“Then I won’t do it.”

“You could of course refuse. Putting aside the fact that I will make you regret it, that means it would be known that Kallorn ‘the conflicted’ gave his word, his bond, knowing the intended consequences, and then he backed out of it. What happened to your precious honour, Kal. Going to toss it away so soon? Whatever will the children say about their noble protector?”

“No one would know.”

Dark smiled, the smile of a chess grandmaster that has put his checkmate move into play.

“Well, I’d know. And more importantly, you know who else would? You would.”

And there, for perhaps the first time, deep in the depths of the underworld, Kallorn thought about what it truly meant to keep your word.

Just as Dark intended.

After a long moment, broken only by the gentle whisper of the wind, Kallorn walked again, following Dark.

“Whatever, let’s just get this done. I want to be gone from this damned place.”

And so the monster and its unwilling keeper disappeared into the depths, the pale glow of the red Orb marking their progress.

Now, the Temple of Silence truly lived up to its name.
Magic the Gathehring fanfiction by Joshua Olsen