Author’s note: This starts the explanation of my take on magic. Those of you who have read What Zombies Fear know I try to put my own spin on popular genre’s. This is how I see magic.
Gorim sat for a long time, waiting. There were no instructions given on what to do, and no instructions on where to go. In the absence of instruction, his training told him to wait. So he did. On the second day, Gorim gave in to curiosity. Without moving, he focused his spirit into a fine thread, and pushed it out behind him, searching.
The wall behind him was warded with a spell more powerful and more complex than he would have thought possible. The power of the ward worried him. What is going to happen in here that required such protection? He probed the ward with his spirit, seeking knowledge. Looking for how it was created, where it was started, and more importantly, where it was tied off.
Spirit was the first chi any novice was allowed to direct. It was the embodiment of curiosity, but also of will. It was the easiest to control, and as Gorim learned through his training, it could also be the most powerful. It was spirit, raw, unchecked, and uncontrolled that split the world and created The Strait. Thousands of years ago, the continents were one. A Wildling who’s life was in grave danger lashed out with pure spirit, a completely free, uncontrolled expression of her will to live. Her will tore the continent from north to south, creating a chasm thousands of feet deep. The oceans to the north and south rushed together, decimating everything in their path. Molten rock shot upwards from the core of the planet, like the earth’s blood flowing from a wound. Cooled by the water, it piled higher and higher until the central islands were formed.
In order to be raised from novice to Acolyte, the novice learned to control their flow. Just as blood flowed freely throughout the body, and the body flowed through it’s environment. Flow was the chi that focused the others. By using flow, Gorim was able to shape his spirit into the tiniest thread, allowing him to use far less spirit to explore and effect things at much greater distance. As a novice, if Gorim were to explore this room, he would have to fill it with his spirit, wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Flow allowed him to focus and control it. Now he could learn about the room with no more spirit than it would take to fill a cup.
As an acolyte, Gorim studied elements. His physical being was made of many, from water to minerals. Adding elements to his spirit augmented his powers, steering his spirit in one direction or another. Spirit was the basis for any magical interaction. Adding a generic element like stone to spirit could do things like create barriers and toughen armor. As Gorim’s skill and knowledge grew, he learned that there were many more precise elements. Stone was made of many different minerals. Carbon and metals, graphite, iron, copper, silica, and other materials were all components of stone, like oxygen, helium, nitrogen and other gasses made up air, and hydrogen and oxygen made up water. His sole study as an acolyte was in learning how these precise elements interacted. Helium and hydrogen could both be added to spirit, wrapped around a body, and used to levitate. Using hydrogen would allow for movement however, specifically if one added fire.
Fire was forbidden to acolytes, and many of the brotherhood. Fire, while not as powerful as spirit, was vastly more destructive. Pure fire could melt stone. Pure fire could incinerate the mage as well as his target. Gorim had been forbidden to study fire or even express an interest. But he was no longer an acolyte. Those rules didn’t apply to him.
After two days without water, sitting on the cold stone floor, Gorim was cold and dehydrated. He expanded his spirit around him in a bubble, and drew hydrogen to it. Hydrogen, he knew from his experimentation, always came doubled. When doubled, it was impossible to add it to any other elements, it would repel them like a magnet. Using flow to force his spirit into the thinnest possible strand, he drove the strand between the pairs of elements, separating them into singles, before wrapping them in spirit to hold them. If he didn’t wrap them, they would come back together immediately.
Once he had them separated, he did the same thing with oxygen elements. Over the course of the next hour, he located and split oxygen from it’s partners, either another oxygen element, doubled on itself, or with a trailing carbon element on the pair. He had millions of tendrils of spirit gathering elements, and each tendril could do the process relatively quickly. He didn’t have to control each tendril individually, they each worked on their own. When he had hundreds of billions of singular elements trapped, he forced them together. There was, like almost always when combining elements an explosive force. Gorim was well trained, and knew it was coming. He wrapped his spirit in stone, which controlled the concussive force of the combination.
When he was finished, there was a ball of water about the size of his head floating in front of him, contained within his spirit. He lowered the ball to the floor, and used flow to cut and tie off the tendrils of spirit as a vessel to hold his water. He picked up the ball and drank thirstily, consuming roughly half of the amount. He was exhausted from the effort. Thirst slaked, Gorim returned to his meditation, and allowed the void to slip over him.
Days later, hunger woke him from his meditation. He’d long since drained the vessel in front of him and reabsorbed the spirit he used to contain it. Making water was relatively simple. Making food from nothing, with it’s thousands of possible element combinations, was next to impossible. He could, with enough time and effort, duplicate almost anything. His spirit scoured the room for anything edible, but to no avail. He created another vessel of water, and returned to his meditation, knowing he could last at least a month without food.
He was in the middle of this third week of sitting on the floor, when hunger started fighting it’s way through the nothingness. As long as he was enveloped in his inky black void of meditation, only extreme needs could rouse him, and his hunger was growing intense. He found himself making more and more water in an attempt to fill his belly. When he urinated, he broke the stream down into it’s component parts and released them into the atmosphere around him, allowing him to reuse some of the elements, and extending the amount of time he could continue to make water. As it was, he was noticing it was harder to find raw oxygen and hydrogen. That meant the air down here was not being replaced, and if that was the case, he would eventually run out of a way to create water for himself.
“Of course, I’ll run out of oxygen to breathe first,” he said to himself. His voice was thick and husky from weeks of not being used. The sound in the room was muffled. A stone room of this size should echo, but the wards around the room seemed to absorb sound.
Unable to meditate, Gorim began searching for a way out. This box he was in was designed to be sealed. No orders had been given, and now his life was in danger. He created a slightly thicker tendril of spirit, and began probing the ward in earnest. It was a weave of elements tightly strung together, but there was space between them. The young mage pushed at the weave with his spirit, trying to squirm through it, to worm his way out of this room. The strands were just too strong. He needed more power. Gorim needed fire.
He spent the better part of a day preparing himself. He’d never used fire, The stories of it were all of phenominal explosions and massive eruptions of power. He knew that fire was what held the city aloft, that it could be contained. He watched Master Kirik light the torches every night like it was nothing.
He’d studied the torches with spirit hundreds of times. Fire took in oxygen and carbon, combined with heat became a self sustaining reaction, pulling more carbon from the fuel source and oxygen from the air. Where would he get the heat? It only needed to be a one time source, once the reaction was started, it would continue on it’s own, generating it’s own heat. He knew that removing oxygen, fuel, or dissipating the heat would end the reaction.
Combining hydrogen and anything created a small amount of heat. He searched the room for hydrogen elements, gathered them and split them into components. He tried combining hydrogen with every other element he could find int he room, but nothing created enough heat to start the process. In anger, he let all the elements he’d gathered go, save one single hydrogen. He studied it. It was the most simple of all the elements. One core, and one attractor. Maybe that was the secret to it’s power, and it’s use in almost everything. The simplest things were often the most powerful.
Gorim poured more flow into his spirit, fine tuning it even further than he ever had before, looking for the attractor. It spun around it’s core like the planets around the sun. The former acolyte sharpened his spirit until it was impossibly thin. Nothing existed except it and the element he was studying, then he slid his spirit between the attractor and it’s core.
The resulting explosion knocked Gorim all the way across the room. If he hadn’t been wrapped in his own spirit, it would have torn apart his body, killing him instantly. As it was, his spirit was shredded, and it took all he could muster to contain the tiny ball of fire. He enveloped it completely. Its heat was burning the shield he’d built, but the exaltation of controlling fire filled him with joy. When completely enveloped, the ball shrunk. He let it shrink down until it was almost out, just a dozen elements burning in an orb, and added that power to his spirit, using his essence to absorb the power of the fire, rather than control it.
Such power! He felt like he could move mountains! His soul was soaring through the heavens. It felt like he could send his spirit anywhere in the universe. He could explore anything. Limitless knowledge at his disposal. He forced himself to focus. First he had to get out of this room. Using the power of fire aided spirit, he shoved through the ward. It unraveled in a massive concussion. When he extinguished the fire and released his spirit, the pain of his body flooded his mind, coupled with starvation magnified the discomfort. He found himself unable to straighten his legs. His body was seized with cramps. Slowly he crawled backwards, and spoke his command word. “Haros“.
The door opened. Masters Kirik and Yunse were there. They picked him up with their spirit, and carried him triumphantly up the stairs. The two men stepped out onto a balcony with the agonized boy suspended between them, straightened out by their spirit.
They spoke in unison. Words the pair had repeated over and over for hundreds of years. “Novices and Acolytes! We present to you, our newest brother, Master Gorim. He has survived his trial, and earned the respect of all of us.” Gorim’s hands were raised above his head to thunderous applause. The newest member of the Brotherhood of Magi struggled to remain conscious.
About the Author
Kirk Allmond started writing the first bestselling What Zombies Fear novel in 2010 as an online story as part of his website The Zombie Preparedness Initiative. When the idea to write a novel struck him, he took his own “Zombie Apocalypse” plan and turned it into a story. That story has now spawned six novels and two short stories, and is showing no sign of letting up.
When he’s not writing or talking about zombies, the Michigan born writer holds firmly to the southern roots of his family. He grew up in Chicago IL, and Roswell, GA. Kirk has an amazing little boy who was born in 2007, who is the basis for the character Max in his novels. His time growing up in the south with his grandparents taught him the value and skills to live off the land. He is an avid outdoorsman, loves hunting, fishing and backpacking. When he’s not honing his survival skills, Allmond is often found sitting at a role-playing game table, either as the GM of his own Zombie Apocalypse role playing game or as a participant in games run by one of the members of Grown as Gamers, the premier podcast for all things geek and pop culture.