---The Sanctuary in the Howling North---
*Set in the city of Rochester, Minnesota, The United States- this story begins during the fall of Sydney and is a snapshot of the chaos the sack of a city can cause even far from the cities borders.*
In a word, cold. That is how most everyone would describe the state of Minnesota, despite the omnipresent and oppressive heat and humidity that ruled its summers. And despite that heat, no one would call anyone who described the state as cold wrong. Even in the southern reaches of the state, the wind chill could drop the temperature to levels more commonly found in Antarctica in the later parts of winter and the deep snows that fell made everything even worse by adding to the chill and impeding movement- prolonging a person’s exposure to the wind’s bite.
A city of a mere hundred thousand souls, at a glance a casual observer might question if the city under all that snow even counted as third tier or if it was merely protected by the mighty Twin Cities and their dual towers to the north. Someone who actually came to visit, however, would find Rochester to have all the features of a Tier Two city, its lack of its own Tower more than compensated by the fortifications of Assisi Heights and other structures of similar mass and defensive strength throughout the city center and downtown. Moreover, the Nuns of Assisi Heights added their faith magic to the more conventional spellcraft that defended the city, which itself was far more advanced than even a Tier Two city would normally boast.
The cost of all these defenses and amenities was enormous, and spoke to vast quantities of HDM’s flowing through the city. Far more than its population would normally warrant.
Of course, a passerby in winter would likely scoff and think such a thing foolish. Who would want to come to this frozen hellscape, or more importantly, why would anyone want to come here? Why would millions of people flock to this out of the way block of ice?
“Emergency Teleport incoming!” A dispatcher shouted, as healers and their assistant nurses in various scrubs and coats dashed around madly. Having gone from relative ease to efficient and organized chaos as the enchanted intercoms announced a Code Black.
There was no worldwide standardization of the color codes used by hospitals, but Code Black almost universally meant something terrible. And at the Mayo Clinic, one of the premier hospitals and healing facilities in the magical world, it had one of the worst meanings possible.
Even now, teleport arrays were lighting up at the top of St. Mary’s hospital, signalling the arrival of wounded from somewhere in the world. Around the city, message devices were being pinged and healers were activating their contingency rings in a way unique to healers. High tier healers off duty don’t carry their rings to escape from wounds, but to reach them. Rumors spread around the city as Healers frowned in annoyance at the interruption from their message devices, only to have their eyes widen in shock and then teleport away.
“We need to get him into surgery!”
A team of healers rushed to the operating rooms, the patient on the enchanted gurney barely holding on to life. Normally, a patient this severely hurt would likely be left to perish in triage, but a magus would always have priority over lesser mages. There just were not enough of them to waste by letting them die.
“What have we got?” The lead healer barked as the gurney smashed through the plastic doors into the room.
“Combat Magus. Air Element Evoker/Transmuter, alchemical tolerance reached.” The Diviner listed off, her eyes aglow with mana. “Three punctures to the left lung, one to the right. Three more punctures in the stomach, but he’s messed up enough I can’t distinguish.”
As the patient was expertly shifted to the operating table, an Air Conjuror had his familiar spirit enter the man's lungs through his mouth. Even with the collapsed lungs due to the puncture wounds, the Conjuror and his familiar were able to inflate the magus’s lungs and get him breathing again- all without impacting the work going on by the other healers on the man’s chest and stomach.
After a brief pause with the Diviner squinting, even though that had no affect on her magic, he added. “He also has a toxin in his bloodstream, a poisoned weapon? No! This is an infection, one that is secreting poison!”
This caused the desperately working lead healer to curse under his breath. Many poisons and toxins weren’t too terrible when there was mana to go around. Mayo’s alchemists were more than up to the challenge of even the most complex toxins, and even if a patient came in with some exotic Drow spider venom that lacked any antivenom at all, Rochester had enough Healers to pump a patient full of positive energy until the body could flush it out naturally. Or at the very worst they could perform a ritual and cast even legendary ninth tier healing spells, tenth if the Nuns helped.
But this was a special case, a Code Black. The enchanters on standby had managed to stabilize a portal by connecting to the cities shield stations and draining their power as fuel. The sheer volume of patients coming in had already exceeded the numbers that would allow practical use of high tier spells save those kept in spell cubes.
And, as the novice frontier healers had learned soon into this whole debacle, healing spells did not always make things better.
Not all infections respond to Cure Disease, and many of the microbes responsible can feed off of positive energy better than the patient can. Experiments had shown that healing, especially the famous Regeneration spell, would often cause bacterial populations to explode, leading to the death of the patient.
However, while other countries may accuse the AMA’s mass produced healers to be lacking talent compared the graduates of the Nightingale School or the students of the Greeks, they made up for it here at Mayo with superb teamwork that may very well be unmatched in the modern magical world.
The door opened again as a specialist rushed in, the Lead Healer had not asked for the woman, but he had not needed to. The team’s Diviner anticipated his desire and sent the message almost as soon as she had finished her declaration of the infection.
The United States could be said to be a heavily religious country, with most of its inhabitants professing one faith or another. However, while those religions were mostly Protestant, the divisions between the denominations kept them divided enough to not play a leading role in most citizens daily lives. Unlike Europe, in which the Vatican was situated and where the Great War that ravaged the world had begun, and unlike China, where the constant battle in the North raged against the undead- the United States, overall, had fewer bad experiences with Negative Elements and Necromancy.
In fact, instead of using high tier healing spells and/or expensive enchanted golem prosthetics, researchers had been making breakthroughs treating cancer with careful application of the more stable negative elements like Salt and Dust, as well as using the dreaded Necromancy itself to replace lost limbs.
It was not something advertised heavily, of course, and many foreign magisters disapproved, but not many people really cared what they thought. Admittedly, there had been some accidents- namely involving either the spontaneous generation of undead or a Necromancer going mad and attacking his coworkers. But all that had done was add fuel to the debate about the Second Amendment and whether or not it allowed the casting of high tier offensive spells. Self defense advocates championed the benefits Necromancy had brought to agriculture, medicine, and defense, while those advocating for regulation were furious that the other side would only talk about low risk Necromancy and research- as if there weren’t other reasons to not want the casual sale of scrolls or spell cubes containing dangerous spells, to say nothing of the easy availability of learning spells for mere HDM’s instead of CC’s.
The Salt Transmuter/Conjuror Magus was an example of the benefits that came from this rather apathetic view towards Negative elements and Necromancy. Mayo hired as much of the best as they could, and the woman was without question a genius.
With an extremely rare Salt Spirit as a familiar that had been brought from Salt Lake City, Utah expanding her control and giving her Tier Seven Salt to go with her Tier Seven Transmutation and Tier Six Conjuration, she was able to spread her Salt mana throughout a patient's body and after extensive training, research, and experience was able to kill or suppress the growth of any foreign microbe in the patient's body.
The patient's heart had stopped beating, but the Water Evoker on standby was able to simulate the blood flow for now. The Diviner was a Lightning mage that had Tier Two evocation, which while not enough to qualify as a Magus, was more than enough to use a variant Mage Hand signature spell- freely available to all Mayo staff- that would defibrillate the heart. However, the Diviner was also using her abilities to help guide the Healer and the Salt Magus as they carefully poured both Positive and Negative energy into the patient, healing the wounds while killing the infection and removing the poisons that remained.
“Clear!” The Diviner announced right as the pair finished, her hands pressing down on the Magus’s still chest. “Defibrillate!”
The body jumped as the charge went through it, and the Diviners magic noted the heart was beating again as the Magus coughed up the air elemental that had been keeping him breathing.
The man was stable- for now. And despite how it felt, his healing had taken only a little over seven minutes from arrival, most of which could be attributed to cleansing the incredibly nasty bacteria that had entered the wound. However, he was one among hundreds of patients that were constantly arriving via gate. As the nurses rushed the stable man away to make room, the door was shoved open again as another critical patient entered.
Off to the side, a Magister in scrubs stood still, as he had throughout the entire last procedure. In fact, in other operating rooms, there were other Magister’s who also were seemingly doing nothing- the only people in the entire hospital that were not rushing frantically. But there was no anger or annoyance thrown their way, the Magisters of Rochester Campus of Mayo Clinic included in their ranks a very unique bunch.
Dedicated Diviner or not, talent and training or whatever, the precision with which the hospital ran was not natural, and not something even the most talented and compatible of groups could reach no matter how much they tried. The coordination, if it could be viewed from a distance, was nothing short of awe inspiring.
And this was all due to the four Magister healers who stood still and did nothing. The campus had other magisters, all of which were performing their tasks as well, but these four were special.
When one thinks of a Magister, they think of a demi-god wielding the school of Evocation, almost certainly with Transmutation or Conjuration, and nearly always with Abjuration. Because even here in Rochester, shielded from the Wilderness of the Boundary Waters by the Towers in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as the great shielding stations in Duluth and flanked by settlements to the South, East and West, and even by its own shield stations- monsters still roamed, and off the beaten path, still ruled.
Monster wolves haunt both North America and Europe, and the Mystic Class Fenrir and the pack of wolves he spawned are by far the most famous. But here in North America, another Mystic Beast roamed and had children. Often called the Star Wolf, or Sirius, the creature would only descend from the skies to the Earth on rare occasions- and even then far away from humanity.
Its children, however, were much more bold. Packs of Night Wolves still roamed the American continent in places despite the best effort of generations of mages to hunt the beasts to extinction. Though, even when they had succeeded for a time, it turned out the Wolves were a necessary part of the ecosystem and had to be reintroduced to the Yellowstone Wilderness to prevent the Giant Beavers from seeking a new home, and chewing through all of humanity to find it!
The more solitary, but even more dangerous and massive Great Bears still wandered around as well. Even the smallest of them, the Great Black Bear, was a monster that reached fifteen feet in height when it stood on its hind legs! The less said about the Great Kodiak Bears in Alaska, the better. The small Kodiaks would often hit thirty feet while the largest were the size of six or seven story buildings.
The herds of deer, elk, and the occasional moose were more pests than worries- or they would be if not for their habit of panicking and the gigantic size their herds could grow to leading to stampedes.
And, despite the best efforts of the best Enchanters and Abjurers America had to offer, none of those monsters were affected by the shield stations despite their cores being more than large enough to trigger it in theory.
All of this means that when people think of a Magister, they think of an unstoppable combatant swatting away monsters and keeping humanity safe.
The four still Magisters did not fit that stereotype. All four were experts in the schools of Enchantment, Divination, and Illusion. All four were mind mages. All four had explicit permission to enter the minds of every staff member, all thirty thousand of them, and they did. It demanded, even of them, supported as they were by high level spirits, so much of their attention that they stood as if rooted to their spots. It was not mind control, nor was it full on manipulation, because none but the most legendary of Magi could even hope to control so many or even to strongly influence them.
However, by working together and expertly using all three of their schools, they maintained a light touch on every mind in the hospital and helped them work together. Healers that hailed from different lands would suddenly be able to understand each others accent, hands would pass tools without needing to be asked and without either party looking to see them, despite the bustle and packed hallways not a single collision occurred.
Other Diviners and Enchanters throughout the hospital worked with the Magisters, until they all operated as if they were one organism. Saving lives with a speed that defied even magic itself.
However, it was not close to enough.
Rumors spread, the frontier city of Sydney had been attacked by Mermen, its shields brought down and its tower silent. To make matters worse, without the Tower the portal was unable to be stabilized. There simply wasn’t enough mana even with the efforts on Mayo’s end.
Produced in collaboration between American Magitech companies and old European families, either with royal or noble blood, who had knowledge, however limited, of Faerie paths, this device was meant to revolutionize travel and allow for even the most injured mages in frontier cities to be treated and recovered, then sent back into the fight. In theory, the portal would connect to some of the largest and most advanced medical facilities in the world. But without the towers mana, the portal could not make that extra one to two thousand kilometer connection to Athens and London, or even to John Hopkins on the East Coast of the United States. Worse still, at some point Void Mana began to drift through the portal, but before the hospital shut it down, the mana interacted negatively with the enchantments and the entire portal imploded, leaving nothing but a round crater where the extremely expensive piece of magitech had once stood.
Company representatives crowed that the concept had proven its worth, and pointed to the nearly five hundred lives saved, whereas regulators complained that the collapsing portal had, despite not being connected, also caused an implosion of the devices in Athens, London, and John Hopkins killing several healers including one Magister. Perhaps magitech based on the magic of the Fae, whose spells could be as fickle as their casters, was not yet ready for deployment.
Still others complained at the cost, which was staggering. The Mayo Clinic was tapped into the Mana Grid, a magitech marvel that allowed the inventions of the wildly competing companies to be used even by NoM’s and recharged with ease for only a small fee and the hospital had its own backup generator which drew Primary Elemental Mana from the planes using a complex series of elemental cores and enchantments and had barely kept the portal open. Sydney, a frontier city, wouldn’t have had the mana to do much anyway- especially as they would be focused on their own defense and the connections to the other hospitals would push the mana cost into astronomical figures.
In the time the portal was open, mana equivalent to one hundred thousand HDMs was spent on the portal alone. But if you counted mana lost in transit from emergency redirects, the figure began to push into the million range. No one wanted to say it out loud, but in private they were skeptical if the people saved were really worth two thousand HDM’s each, not counting the resources spent on actually saving them and sending them back.
As it turned out, sixty percent of the people who came through the portal for medical treatment were NoM’s, many of whom died due to lack of care as the hospital gave preference to mages. Still, the hospital provided them care as they could, and due to the enduring influence of the Nun’s who helped found St. Mary’s Hospital with the Mayo Brothers over a hundred years prior, the care was free, without any expectation of repayment.
At least from the hospitals side. The American politicians were baying for the Mageocracies blood and salivating for reparations, and only the future would show if they actually received them or if any of that currency made its way to the hospital itself.
For the most part, the world reeled from the shock of Sydney’s fall, mourned for the loss of the great Henry Kilroy, speculated on the rise of Gunther Shultz and the fall of the gray faction in Oceania, and more or less forgot not only about the efforts remembered here, but also almost the entire population of Sydney below the rank of Magus.
The masses of NoM’s and low tier, working class, mages were left in the ruins of their city and their lives, struggling to hope against despair that the Morningstar would lead them to a new dawn.
Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!
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