Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 81 - A Sight for Sore Eyes

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Diviners are a strange breed of Mages.

Diviners are the dowsing rods of the Spellcraft world, sensing danger by splitting the threads of probability. Yet, who could say that the stream of potential would remain unperturbed if a stone displaced the water? Fate was a fatal trio, or so the Greeks foretold— a cabal of incidence and chance. The sisters are fickle, and a change of luck brought untold, unforeseen calamities. The great American Diviner, Edward N. Lorenzo, once stated that chance was as delicate as a butterfly's wings - that one wrong flutter lead to hurricanes on the opposite side of the world.

Though hyperbolic, Lorenzo's warning regarding the dangers of unmitigated uses of Divination struck a chord with Magi and Magus of the craft, ultimately endorsed by the "Oracle" of Delphi herself.

Nonetheless, despite all the trials and tests carried out by Diviners in the age of objective Spellcraft, no answer could be found as to how their spells foretold the future. In any case, Lorenzo's warning endured.

Disasters were predicted and mitigated - but never averted. The public trust in Diviners remained sceptical. However, that didn't mean Divination itself was unimportant to the Mageocracy by any means.

The lower tier spells, perfected by Spellcraft research, worked wonders for Mages surviving in the wilderness or trawling through a Demi-human dungeon. Detect Magic, Detect Traps, Detect Thoughts, these were mainstays of the Divining school.

Likewise, Message, the quintessential spell in an age of information, was only made possible by weaving Divining scripts into augur devices, searching out individual recipients amongst the numberless multitude of humanity.

Likewise, for a globalising Mageocracy, the advent of enchantments utilising Tongues in conjunction with Message devices furthermore created possibilities of human communities working together as one to repeal the advancing tide of Magical Creatures.

As such, in a practical sense, Diviners were lauded and protected, much like the Clerical Healers, whose presence were essential for the survival of humanity in a hostile world.

These reasons were why Magister Irene Ferris of the Ordo Oceania was first and foremost a Diviner, then an Enchanter, followed by her ongoing vocation in the School of Illusion.

As a bloodline caster from a long line of Diviners, she could tap into the streams of the uncertain future, to read the eddies and currents of its passing. So long as it involved herself directly.

Could she foretell the future?
No.

Irene had not once inferred that she at all possessed such means. She was a master of the Scry, not a master of unthreading the infinitely complex sisal knots of fate.

What she possessed was instead a supernatural ability to sense danger, both for herself and those close to her. It wasn't something that foretold the future— but it had earned her enough prestige and support in her younger days to gather the necessary resources to achieve the rank of Magus in her thirties, and then Magister in her fifties.

Lucky Irene, they called her.

Her combat teams always escaped imminent danger. Her expeditions had avoided every ambush. Her experiments in Alchemy and Enchantment rarely went awry.

Slowly but surely, she gained a seat on Oceania's Grey Faction— becoming one of the three Magisters who believed in communicating and trading with the Demi-humans. Under her watchful eye, the Tower experimented with extra-species trade, bringing boons and gifts otherwise unattainable for the nation.

Rosebay was her mother-school. Irene possessed fond memories of the place; with its stern-faced but kind-hearted nuns who had been so good to her. As a Magister, she had used her influence to build the school into something marvellous and extraordinary. An Orthodox Catholic school, no matter how wealthy, struggled to escape its Frontier status. With her influence and the Grey Market, however, Irene could provide the school with a plethora of resources available only to the colleges linked to London, like Prince's.

Julia Fiore Muller was one such talent Irene had uncovered.

Julia was a prodigy of the Transmutation school with a ten-thousand-in-one talent of Para-Elemental Magma. Were it not for the fact that the girl was a Transmuter-Abjurer— Irene would have taken Julia on as her Apprentice.

The IIUC was Julia's chance to shine; then unexpectedly, like a bad joke, her protege was defeated by Gwen Song.

Irene didn't know what to think other than how deep Henry Kilroy had hidden his pet sorceress. She could hardly keep her own heart from wringing in her chest when the girl demonstrated a talent Irene had only read in the Tower's annals.

A Void Mage.

There had been a Void Mage in the past - Henry's infamous wife, Elizabeth Winsted Sobel, who had died while serving in Europe. The girl, Gwen Song, even looked like Elizabeth in her dossier photos - dark hair, bright eyes, pale white skin that had an ethereal, deathly pallor.

Irene had never met Henry's late wife, but like all Mage who grew up during that time, she had heard of the legend. Elizabeth was the woman whose involvement in the war forced the Mermen to relocate their cities, whose Void abilities had frightened the superstitious Saurians into the deep Queensland jungle for two decades.

Now, Henry Kilroy was raising another Void Mage.

Irene couldn't even begin to imagine the ramifications of that decision.

Irene was a Magister who believed in mutual co-existence with the Demi-human races. She wanted to see a world where man and the magical races were made equals, respected one another, engaged in open trade. She loathed the notion that Mages hid behind the Shield Walls and pretended those other races, whose age and existence far exceeded humanity, didn't exist.

Now she must entertain the possibility that Henry Kilroy could somehow reignite the Mageocracy's glorious past. What would happen when his Void Mage matured? Would Gwen Song bring about another renaissance of human dominion in the region? Would the tribal Demi-humans again fall to their knees in helpless worship of a power they could not resist nor repel?

More questions awaited her deliberation, but Irene had no more time to think.

The battle reached its climax and Irene saw her protege use yet another Polymorph to escape the Dark Tentacles. It was a good move, Julia was deserving of her title as a genius of the Transmutation school.
Then Irene saw it.

When the vision came, Irene herself was astounded by its intensity.

It had been some time since she felt that familiar rush of crisis that played like a stop-motion montage before her mind's eye. After all, a Magister rarely ventured out to risk their skin. They had other Mages for that, and Irene was a capable administrator.

It was only a flash, but what Irene saw a horrid sight that knotted her guts and set her spine quivering with alarm.
Pale skin.
An alien swarm.
Void.
Tendrils.
Lamprey's mouth.
Shattered glass.
Blue eyes.
Blood and offal.
Irene had no idea what it meant, but she was confident that it had to do with the pale-skinned, blue-eyed girl before her. And that was why she launched herself at the rails and demanded the cessation of combat.

Her grand-student, Julia, stopped; she transformed back and stared accusingly at her Grandmaster.

Irene felt her blouse drenched in cold sweat.

She turned to Henry Kilroy.
The man must know; the damned old codger had to know.

"Henry," she said quietly, her mind lost for words. "What the hell did I just foresee?"


Henry Kilroy, Master of the Ten and head of the Ordo Arcanum Oceania, felt utterly vindicated. His student, Gwen Song, was enduring the Void Element, learning to abuse its strengths and circumvent its weaknesses. Furthermore, she had none of that paranoid insecurity that his wife had shown, no waking nightmares that he knew of, no fits of rage and destruction that required copious volumes of his life-force to sedate. No accidental diminishments of innocent life that were needed to feed an endless, voracious hunger.

At least, not yet.

Hopefully, with his guidance, Gwen would grow into a fine young sorceress, one that would bring hope and prosperity to the Frontier.


"If you must know." Irene's opponent raised a cup mead to his lips and took a casual, languishing sip. "I must charge a price."

"What does the mighty Henry Kilroy desire?" Irene asked drily, licking her parched lips.

To her surprise, the underdressed Dryad passed her a wooden cup of the golden liquid. Irene couldn't help but notice a distinct similarity between the Dryad and Gwen, forcing her to raise an eyebrow.

"Thank you, dear," Irene replied politely, allowing the mead to touch her lips. She tasted the vitality brimming about the viscous liquid, shooting down her throat like a surge of wildfire. Though only for a moment, Irene felt a few years younger.

No wonder they call him Deathless Henry, Irene pondered to herself. The man drank the manna of the Gods like a clerk drinking cheap coffee. How much life did Henry have stored in that body? Irene couldn't begin to imagine what capabilities Henry hid underneath that decrepit visage of mild senility.

Henry continued.

"I desire your dire confidence in exchange for information on the Void Element, as well as a token gift as an assurance for my future apprentice."

"You're that confident in me, are you?" Irene scoffed.

"Should I not trust you?" Henry offered serenely. "Are we not colleagues?"

Irene sipped the mead, but couldn't help but think of her vision. It had felt so real. If so, had she averted disaster? If so, it would be a first.

"I want to know what that thing is, Henry," Irene said seriously, thinking of her vision. She had to confirm the thing that she saw. Was Gwen the reason for that flashforward? If so, Irene might have to exercise extreme prejudice against Henry's Apprentice. It wasn't going to be pretty.

"Are we friends, Irene?" Henry said. "As a Diviner, what do you think of Gwen and her prospects?"

The man may have misunderstood Irene's intense interest, but he wasn't about to let an advantage just escape his grasp. Irene understood that after Magister Walken's antagonism, Henry was offering the Grey Faction an olive branch. That way, he could both gain something for Gwen, as well as resolve some of the tension their factions shared. After all, Gwen would likely be as pivotal to Sydney's future. The Void sorceress could be their boon, or she could be the bane.

For now, it was best to pay up. Irene had to confirm if the girl indeed was the second coming of Sobel.

Irene vehemently slid something from her finger and tossed it towards Henry. Sufina caught the trinket before it reached her Master. She opened her palm carefully and presented the prize.

"Are you sure, Irene? Your's is a rare gift."

"I am not professing to be her enemy, not unless you're going to die anytime soon." She shrugged, relaxing her shoulders.

Henry chuckled.

"I believe the Cathedral has a confessional cloister, no? I shall bring Gwen there. We will need some privacy if you wish to see Gwen's Void Beast."

Irene nodded, the space on her right ring finger felt poignantly amiss.

"Did you apprentice the girl yet?" she asked.
"What do you think?"
"Not publicly, though?"
"I shall, soon."
"I see."

Irene flew from the balcony, aided by Winged Boots under her robes, appearing as a vision of calm and authority. She drifted gently towards the Rosebay team. All of the girls were crying, a few bawled, while others hung their heads in shame.

"Girls." Irene opened her arms. "Don't be upset. You did your best."

Conversely, Gwen's team embraced and hug.

Watching his secret Apprentice, Henry felt such joy and delight that his complexion grew pink. Quietly, he coughed once, his old wounds stabbing like knives into his diaphragm. In the next moment, he felt seized by a violent fit, and it took his all to suppress the wrenching muscles rioting within his chest.

"Give this to Gwen, Sufina. Tell her to meet me the cloister once she is finished— There is no rush. I need some time to recollect my old bones."

Sufina touched a wooden finger down the curvature of her Master's gaunt face; then she was away.

 

 

Gwen meanwhile was entirely in a world filled with jubilation.
Teamwork!
Accomplishment!
Victory!

Besides Gwen, Yue was pumping her fists in the air in a most un-ladylike manner, shouting the occasion obscenity to their mutual embarrassment.
Elvia's face was plump full of apple-pink excitement, breathing heavily and excitedly through her cute button nose. Debora remained disbelieving that they had won, and was looking around with a dazed expression, savouring the moment. Only Whetu seemed like he'd expected it all along, and was happy to stand grinning besides the huddle of girls giggling like a gaggle of geese.

Gwen watched Sufina lower herself via a tendril to the training grounds, striding upon her long, stilt-like legs towards the team before embracing her with such force that the wood creaked.

"You've made Master very proud, and very happy. Here, your reward." Sufina urged Gwen to open her palm. Gwen complied and was gifted yet another ring.

"Thanks, Sufi, you helped me a lot in training as well, this is as much our effort as it is yours also." Gwen praised her Master's companion. "What's this?"

"From Magister Ferris." Sufina grinned suggestively. "She wanted to know more about you, and Master sold you for this ring."

Gwen made a face. The Dryad laughed.

"Master says to take your time. He's going to have a rest."

Gwen returned her attention to the ring.

"What does it do?" she asked, sizing the magical trinket on her right index finger.

"It's a Ring of Evasion," Sufina explained. "It has an enchantment carved into the core of a displacer beast, which allows better survival against AoEs, sometimes."

"Sometimes?"

"Who knows?" Sufina shrugged. "They were pretty common in the war; all the high-level Maguses had one. It's a Diviner—luck thing."

"Sufi's right," Alesia, the team's instructor, wrapped an arm around Gwen's shoulders. She flashed her dainty looking hand, and Gwen noticed that three of Alesia's fingers possessed Rings. "I got one too, saved my ass more than a few times."

Gwen examined her new ring appreciatively before slipping it upon her right index finger, observing the band contract until it attained a snug fit. She didn't feel any different, seeing as the phenomenon was reactive.

"Gwen! Join the huddle!" Yue urged.
It was embarrassing, but Gwen joined nonetheless. Even Alesia joined in.
"All for one!" Gwen tried again.
"For Blackwattle!"
"For Gwen!"
"To you guys!"
"Huzzah!"

Oh well, Gwen thought. Maybe she has to pen the story first. If so, she would have to adjust the context to fit the nature of her new world. In her story, Yue, Debora, and Elvia would be Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. For as D'Artagnan had changed his life by defeating Cardinal Richelieu's guards and wounding Jussac; so Gwen had now changed her life and the lives of her companions by entering into the Inter-High.

Gwen thought about what her Master had told her and pondered the road ahead. The victory was merely the crack in the door; now, she had to wedge it open.

"Gwen!" Her mental celebration was interrupted by a pair of warm, moist hands that grasped her own.

Gwen looked up to see Debora, her eyes gleaming with emotion.

"Thank you, Gwen, for giving me this opportunity," Debora intoned. "I don't know what I would have done without you."

"You did your very best, Debs." Gwen hugged Debora. "You deserve everything."

Unexpectedly, they were joined by the Magister Irene Ferris, together with the representatives from Rosebay.

"Girls, congratulations, you as well, Mr Taranga. Magus de Botton, it is good to see that you remain so lively."

"Magister." Alesia inclined her head, barely.

"Magister!" Gwen and the girls curtsied more meaningfully. Whetu likewise bowed smartly, bending his body to achieve the desired state of genuflection.

"A most astounding victory, Gwen Song. I had no idea Magister Kilroy had a trump card such as yourself, hidden so well."

"You jest, Ma'am," Gwen replied formally. "I am a novice."

"Hardly. Anyway, as I am sure you know by now, these are the girls whom you had bested. They wish to exchange greetings with your team."

"It would be both an honour and a pleasure, Ma'am." Gwen curtsied again.

The girls from the two schools then exchanged handshakes.

When Julia and Gwen passed one another, she felt the larger girl grip her hand, her eyes full of both conviction and tenacity.

"I won't lose next time. I hope your future victories will bring greater glory to our re-match." Julia shook Gwen's hand with deliberate slowness.

"Sure thing, I'll be waiting," Gwen replied seriously.

"It was a good fight. I'll be watching you."

"As will I."

Meanwhile, the other girls were all making moon-eyes at Whetu, making him glower a shade of carmine over his mocha skin.
"Are those tattoos real?"
"What are your sizes? Your arms are massive!"
"Mmm, his legs are like tree trunks."
"Huge feet."
"You know what they say about huge feet."
"Shush! The Magister is right there..."

 

Irene Ferris found back the unease that still haunted her Divination senses.

Watching the youths exchange greetings and establish rivalries and friendships, Irene Ferris took the opportunity to examine Gwen up close, to see if she could discern what had made the girl so dangerous.

With great subtlety, she activated an array of detection spells, indulging her eyes with a silently enabled True Sight.

She first scanned the Blackwattle students, noting the motes of mana cascading from the Evoker and the Transmuter. The Mineral Mage, Whetu, was an array of mixed elements, both Positive and Earthen. Beside the boy, De Botton was a fount of fire.

Gwen Song was an interesting exercise in itself. The girl had motes of mana that seemed to circulate her in oppositional pairs. Irene squinted, there was something else as well, a strange mix of primary elements that reminded her of Henry's Dryad - Sufina. Had Deathless Henry marked the girl already? That was no surprise, though. Irene would have done the same in his shoes.

Just as Irene was about to speak, she again felt her hair rise to a stand-still.

Without warning, Irene's ocean-blue eyes clouded over with a faraway look as a vision took her.
Void.
Cathedral.
Mermen.
Panic.
Shatter.
Pain.
Despair.
Void.
Students.

"Ma'am?"

The Magister felt her consciousness return. The vision consumed no more than a second.

"Ma'am?" Gwen Song was addressing her with a puzzling look.

"Gwen Song…" Irene tried to reply but became struck by yet another dire omen. Irene knew that her visions had a particular aspect to them - they only applied to a crisis that Irene herself was about to experience.

Any moment now, shit was going to hit the fan.
A hundred questions assailed the Diviner.
Why would the defeated Mermen assault the city now?
How could they get past the Shield Wall?
Was her vision a snapshot of a future foretold?

"Gwen Song…" Irene repeated herself, lost in her thoughts, watching Gwen patiently and politely awaiting her response.

Where was the danger though? The visions hadn't involved the only two Mages who could challenge her here, Henry and Alesia.

Irene Ferris studied Gwen's face, noting with surprise that unlike when Gwen was in combat, her eyes were, in fact, a vividly striking amber-green.

"Aeeeeeeeargh! NO!"

A sudden shriek disrupted Irene's riotous train of thought.
Besides the girls, Sufina fell to the floor and began to scream.
As a Dryad, the Demi-human's soul-rending cry was a primal outpouring of ear-splitting agony.

Instantly, Sufina withered, her green bower limbs grew old and dry, and her branches shedding its emerald cargo. The Dryad appeared to shrink at once, her stature diminishing immensely, transforming from a lithe doppelganger of Gwen into a sickly girl-child.

The girls around Irene seemed stunned by the sudden transformation.

Irene, however, kicked her mind into overdrive.
Had something or someone attacked Henry Kilroy?
Who'd dare attack the Deathless magister of Oceania himself?
What on earth could do so much damage to the most potent soul-linked Familiar Irene had ever known?

Her academic mind wanted answers.
But her Divination had other ideas.
It told her to run.

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About the author

Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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