Chapter 9: Magnus

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When did we allow for this to happen? When did we allow evil to walk among us, and not raise a finger against it? When were feelings and emotions valued more than the sanctity of human life? When did we refuse to call evil by it's name?


Twenty years ago


Skaria frowned, staring at the poppet. "It's not working," she said. The other poppet, across the table, didn't move. "It's not working, ma'am," she said. "I'm trying. But I just can't do it."

"Fine." The woman -Desidra- picked up the poppets. "You're hopeless. Go. Begone from here."

The girl rushed away from the table, running. Desidra had a bad habit of trying to encourage people using a willow switch. She was fond of punishment, and her harsh face rarely knew a smile. She was committed to the Art, and had the deep hatred of the Other, the deep hatred only the devout possessed.

Skaria passed through the courtyard of the great keep. Venden's Hold used to be a tiny little village; but the discovery of a few veins of copper ore changed all that. At least, that was what the Elders had said. But the growth had turned the village from a few wooden hovels to upper-class dwellings and a large stone castle. That castle, the one that towered above her, all spires and coronets, had been abandoned, but now the Sisters kept it. And someday, Skaria would keep it as well.

She rushed into the hall of the castle. It was a small castle, she had been told, but to the ten year old girl it was huge. Statues of knights and fair maidens lined the hall, the marble now pitted and rough. She had always liked walking down through there. The maidens all had kind faces and smiling lips. They didn't hit her when she messed up. 

She crossed the hall and stopped at an oak door, pushing it slightly ajar. She closed her eyes and listened. Nothing. No voices carried down the tower interior. Skaria looked behind her. No one was watching her. She slipped in and silently closed the door.

Skaria had always called it the Tower of Stars. It was always dusty, and the golden sunlight made the dust sparkle and shimmer. Skaria smiled. This was her favorite spot, where none of the Elders could find her. They couldn't catch her misbehaving, or punish her for not being good enough.

Climbing the circular stairs, Skaria was quiet as a mouse. The Elders didn't like her up here. Once, when they caught her snooping around the door, before she had dared to muster the courage to enter, they had switched her so hard she couldn't sit down for two days. Of course, that made the need to know what lied behind the door all the more potent.

After ages of climbing, Skaria reached the top. A heavy oaken door, studded with an old, dark metal, stood up at the top of the tower. And in it was burned a strange symbol, a circle with curved glyphs inside it. 

Skaria pushed the door open, as quiet as possible. The Elders wouldn't be happy if they heard her entering this chamber. No, they would definitely not be happy. The willow switch would be the least of her worries.

There was a man there. Skaria had been frightened of him the first time, not knowing what he was. But, fortunately for her, the fear of the unknown hadn't trumped the fear of what the Sisters would do to her. And, after he explained roughly what he was, Skaria was calm again.

He looked up in fear, before his face softened. "Oh, it's just you, Skaria," Magnus said. His unkempt black beard and long hair made him look like the savages in the stories the Sisters told her and the other girls. Of course, unlike the stories, he didn't try to seize and ravage her.  "Close the door, dear," he said.

Skaria shut the door, looking around Magnus's little home. A thin cot was covered by notes written in a bizarre language. A glass orb seemed to dance with a thousand shimmering lights inside it. Unlike the magic of the Sisters, this was beautiful. This didn't leave her sick when she saw it done. 

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