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In Anno Domini 900

In Anno Domini 900 (Because I couldn’t fit it anywhere else in the chapter) The tower was cold, dark, and clammy. Condensation often dripped from its stony walls. Ordinarily, Xiar wouldn’t have minded so much. It was an old, twisting structure, it was going to do as it wished. The problem was the constant battle to save his books from water damage and rot. Well, he said his books. Everything that involved magic was a little fuzzy. He was ninety-nine percent sure this tower belonged to him. But he was still always looking out for the real owner of the tower to come striding in and throw him out for being a loony. To be fair, he didn’t necessarily look sane. Xiar had a passion for long, star-covered robes and pointy hats. Again, he couldn’t remember exactly why. He knew there had been a reason, but whatever it was was lost on him. That’s why he was here in the first place. Just six months ago he’d been a wizard of great power. Until, that is, he’d faced a being of immeasurable force and had been forced to use incredibly powerful magic. Unfortunately, he hadn’t ben strong enough to wield it properly, and though he’d succeeded in holding back this being, his knowledge and magical skill had been taken from him. So here he was, retracing his steps and trying to relearn everything. It was hard, long work, made even more so by the water, and crumbling stone, and occasional tremors from the structure of the tower itself. But if there was one thing that Xiar Flooferpoofen was, it was optimistic. So he kept working and learning, and knew that someday, he would reclaim his old power. But even he was a little unnerved when one morning before dawn, he looked out the tower window and saw a black horse and rider plodding across the snowy valley towards him. His first thought was that the rider must have been out for a stroll… in the middle of the night, riding as swiftly as his mount would carry him through the bleached landscape. His second thought was that he would ride right past into the dark, but it became apparent that he was slowing down as he approached the base of the tower. His third thought was that his memories had been wrong. He didn’t own this tower, and its real owner had returned. Xiar couldn’t help feeling the air of danger the rider brought with him. He might not be just kicked out. He might end up dead. Until he watched as below, his cloak whipping out around him, the rider dismounted and knocked on the door. Usually, people didn’t knock on the doors of their own towers. Xiar paused, hoping that maybe, if he didn’t move, the man would go away. Then he banged harder and Xiar was nearly shaken to his feet as the tower itself shuddered. He hurried down the spiral steps, cursing his old bones all the way. The man knocked one more time. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” Xiar shouted, though whether the man could actually hear him was up to the will of the gods. It appeared against the odds that he had, for as Xiar creaked down the last few steps the knocking ceased. He opened the door, and didn’t bother looking at the visitor before proclaiming: “Behold, whether man or daemon you be, know that I am a wizard of great power, the mighty Xiar Floo—” He tried for a fireball, but all he managed was a sad little puff of smoke in the snow before the man’s feet. Said visitor stared at it for a second, before turning his gaze back to Xiar, who couldn’t help noticing the slight disappointment visible in the shrouded features under his hood. The man was pale, with dark hair and nearly darker circles under his eyes. But there was something slightly off about him. The eyes themselves were too old for such an unmarred face. “Are you the master of this tower?” he asked incredulously. “I just told you, I am Grand Master Wizard Xiar Flooferpoofen! Well, was might be slightly more appropriate.” The man frowned. “Was?” “Magical accident, I’m afraid. All my knowledge, poof! Up in smoke. I’ll relearn it eventually, of course. Only took me fifteen years the first time! But I’ve begun rambling. What brings you to, uh, my tower?” “Please forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself,” the man ducked his head. “My name is Lucius Marcellus, and I was told that the master of this tower might hold some ancient knowledge I seek. But if you’ve lost all of that…” He began to turn, but Xiar stopped him. He wouldn’t let this man turn away disappointed. And he liked to be helpful. “Wait!” he began. “Though I myself may be lacking in the brains department, my books certainly aren’t. They may contain that which you are looking for.” Marcellus paused, and looked about ready to decline, until he happened to glance up at the sky, just beginning to grey with the dawn. “Thank you,” he nodded. “Deeply.” A grin spreading across his many wrinkles, Xiar turned and led the way inside, a skip in his step. It had been so long since he’d had any kind of visitor. “Marcellus,” he commented as they climbed the numerous steps—had there been less of them on the way down?—“That’s an old name.” “It is,” Marcellus mumbled, almost to himself. “It’s probably near time to change it…” There seemed to be something melancholy in the way he said that, the look of loss in his old eyes. But then her shook his head. “Do you need some help?” he asked as he saw Xiar struggling up the last few stairs. “Oh, hush,” Xiar just chuckled. “I’m probably younger than you are.” Marcellus froze. “What do you mean?” “I’m only twenty-nine.” Blinking in the candlelight, Marcellus frowned and looked over at Xiar once again, the wrinkled face, the long, white beard. “Twenty-nine?” he repeated. “Magical accident?” “Magical accident.” Finally, the study came into view, and the mountain of stone steps was conquered. Xiar hadn’t noticed how chaotic the place really was until there was someone else here to see it. His books were scattered in every place he could fit them, every place that wasn’t occupied by puddles of water or plant matter. “Now,” Xiar began apologetically, “what exactly is it that you’re looking for?” But Marcellus didn’t respond, for just then the tower began to shake again. “It that… normal?” he asked finally. Xiar waved him off. “Happens all the time. Old tower and all that.” “Right…” Marcellus glanced around at the piles and piles of books. Organized chaos was the word of the day. “It may look like a mess, but I guarantee you I know where everything is,” Xiar defended his collection. Shaking his head, a wry smile crossed Marcellus’ face. “Alright then, I’m looking for information on Atlantis. More specifically, why it’s a lost city in the first place.” Xiar blinked several times. He had to admit that he had fully expected something easy, like the uses of mandrake root. Okay, maybe not that, but it was hard to come up with good examples off the top of one’s head. “Atlantis?” he said. “Hardly anyone even remembers that name anymore. You wouldn’t happen to be a wizard yourself, would you?” “No, no,” Marcellus shook his head. “Merely a scholar.” “No one is a ‘scholar’ these days unless you’re studying god,” Xiar laughed. “Yes, it does appear that things have headed in that direction.” Blundering around the tower room, Xiar began to search blindly around. He knew that he had something relevant around here… “You speak as if you’ve known differently,” he mumbled distractedly. “Oh no, I’ve just been told stories.” “Ah, here it is,” Xiar pushed aside several musty tomes, and there on the surface of his desk was a tattered scroll. The tower rumbled again, a little stronger this time. They had been getting more frequent, the rumblings, but Xiar hadn’t paid them much mind. Marcellus took the scroll and read the first few lines. “This… this is a story.” He seemed confused. “Yes, it is.” “I’m sorry, but I’ve heard all the stories. I’m looking for the truth.” Slowly, Xiar sat on his stool, his old bones creaking. “Isn’t there always some Truth in every story?” He thought about this for a second, then shrugged. “That may just be a story, but it’s your job to find where the Truth lies.” Unfortunately, just as Marcellus opened his mouth to ask a question, the ground itself began to rumble. Not just the tower, but everything around it as well. The towers of books quickly collapsed, and the one glass window shattered. Marcellus rose to his feet, shakily. “We need to get out of here,” he clasped Xiar’s hand and helped him up as well. They began to wobble their way to the staircase, but with a great crack a part of the wall crumbled and fell directly over the doorway. “Why do things like this always happen to me?” Marcellus mumbled. “Well,” Xiar began, “look on the bright side…” “Which is…?” “Yeah, I can’t think of anything.” Running over to the newly created hole in the wall, Marcellus looked downwards. “No one alive could survive that fall.” “Well, I guess that means that I’m up,” Xiar pushed up his loose sleeves. “Help me clear this rug.” A large pile of paper and books had landed or had already covered the bearskin rug on the floor. Quickly, the two men pushed the mess aside. “Are you going to attempt magic?” Marcellus asked, a little incredulously. “Not attempt, do,” Xiar winked. “It’s all in the mindset.” He closed his eyes, took a deep breath. So what if he hadn’t been able to cast even the simplest spell since the accident? The fear of death would provide just the pressure he needed to break this block. Alright, here we go, he thought, trying in vain to remember how it had felt to use magic, how to drag up the last visages of power from that far place under the waves and hone it to an edge. He was, and would be, one of the last true wizards. He must be able to do this. Float. “I don’t believe it,” he heard Marcellus mumble, and opened his eyes. The rug was hovering a few inches off the ground. Xiar laughed in relief, but he could already feel the magic fading. There wasn’t much time. “Get on!” he commanded, and with a bit of difficulty, Marcellus managed to jump on and pull Xiar up behind him. By now bits of stone were falling on their heads. “Forward!” Xiar felt the need to say it out loud, in order to hold onto the magic a little longer. The rug shot forward, out of the hole in the wall, and a second later the whole tower started to collapse in on itself. Marcellus’ horse was easy to pick out against the white snow, galloping away from the rapid shaking. Xiar brought the rug into a barely controlled dive downwards into the snow. Marcellus hastily pulled his cloak down over his face as the sun rose over the horizon. He recovered much faster than Xiar, who struggled to sit up and spit out a face-full of snow and fur. “That was certainly an event,” Xiar laughed, his eyes twinkling as the tower finally crumbled in a puff of snow and a tremendous boom. He was so high off of magic that he nearly fell back down into the snow. Blinking, Marcellus looked more downcast, though it was hard not to with his face in shadow as it was. “Your tower, all your books. I’m sorry.” “Ah, no matter,” Xiar waved him off. “Everything happens for a reason. I’ve been thinking of setting off on a journey anyway. There’s only so much you can learn from books, you know.”

“I don’t know how you stay so optimistic,” Marcellus shook his head. “it’s probably more difficult for you,” Xiar smiled. “I’m pretty sure angst is a legitimate side effect of vampirism.” Marcellus began to nod, then froze. “Wait, how did you know about that?” “The way you speak of old things as if they weren’t old at all. But your fear of the sun is really what did it.” “Is it that obvious?” “No,” Xiar shook his head, “I’m just much more observant than I appear. But I’m flapping my gums. You, my friend, should get out of the sun. Have you still got the scroll?” Patting his cloak, Marcellus smiled. “Safe and sound. But I shouldn’t leave you out here alone.” “I’ll be alright,” Xiar insisted. “I’m not the one in physical pain. Your cheek is smoking.” He patted his cheek out, and though he still looked conflicted, Marcellus mounted his horse. “Are you sure you’ll be alright?” “Don’t you have some reading to do?” Marcellus grinned, waved, and set off. “Remember, this is important!” Xiar called after him. “Find where the Truth lies!” Once Marcellus had disappeared over the nearest hill, Xiar looked down at the bearskin rug. “Now, let’s see if I can do this again…”

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