The long thin red line of mana floated around the massive shop. Flying over mountains of books and valleys of chairs; the room felt pleasant.
There was a peaceful sensation as the mana thread floated on air currents around the shop, sampling the ancient feel of the antiques. Every time the mana thread touched something it felt smarter, more curious.
Brushing a rectangular pile of parchment and leather the mana thread was filled with images. Floating down a river on a raft, meeting up with friends, running away from a nasty old woman… and then the mana thread moved on from the copy of Huckleberry Finn.
Canes gave the thread images of older humans walking and leaning on them. Some of the canes radiated a gentle blue energy that made the thread feel warm and complete.
The love of these items was teaching it so much as the small red thread of mana floated onward.
More of those rectangles, more ‘books’. In a corner of the room to the side sat a medium height stack of books, all old and used looking. Touching these books filled the thread with other emotions and images.
Massive giants holding clubs, a horde of them going to war with a group of smaller people… dwarves. The giants pressed against the dwarven defense, threatening to overwhelm the smaller people. Yet, the lines held, the dwarves in front locked arms with one another, their masterfully crafted armor forcing blows to bounce off while others in the back attacked with spears and arrows.
The vision changed, a tavern, elves and dwarves and goblins and gnomes all drank happily with one another. Congratulating the room on the signing of a peace treaty… the vision changed again, a human traveler was buying items from a cloth-covered tent, a man with a tall pointed hat covered in stars inside it selling the human glowing swords and armor…
There was a wealth of stories here, of lives, of knowledge. The thread gorged itself happily on the adventures, touching each of the books one by one and then harmlessly floating to the next.
The thread moved on to another book, images of medieval and early new millennium architecture filled the thread. Buildings, houses, the requirements to sustain life easily, simply, and just barely filled it. Then, just like before, it floated harmlessly away, another book already in its path.
It’s so dark in here.
Moving on the thread touched the book, images of a vast globe, of specific species and civilization borders. The thread absorbed all the information it could from the atlas and moved on, almost touching the first book of the bottom shelf of a massive ornate bookshelf.
It’s hard to read like this… wait… read… is that what I'm doing?
Images of an elderly woman with a ruler standing over a boy holding a book filled the thread. Accessing a memory from not too long ago from… a book. The thread remembered how the elderly woman just wanted to teach the boy to read for his own benefit.
Reading… Reading is important.
The thread reached out to the book, touching the encyclopedia. Although it was at least forty years out of date. The information was greedily and readily sucked up by the thread. Unable to hold itself back from the massive burst of raw knowledge the thread moved on, touching and gliding past every single volume of the encyclopedia set on the bookshelf.
Yes, reading is important… it’s important to be able to know the knowledge of the world…
...The world? Is that the thing I saw in all of those pictures, all of that blue? That must be the world. But if that’s the world… then what am I?
Continuing on the small shred of returned mana grew a little thicker, a little longer with every volume of the encyclopedia it ‘read’. The freshly sentient tendril of mana grew stronger, smarter, fuller with each passing book. Finishing the encyclopedia set completely it climbed the bookshelf, sliding along the wood like a slug now that it was too large to float.
Without leaving so much as a slime trail the mana kept climbing and reading. Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, The Crucible, 1001 puns and jokes to make your children smile, The Complete History of the Roman Empire. The sentient mana greedily gobbled up all of the information, then, full, it sat… the thick sluggish looking thread of mana sat down and rested what it decided was its back against the wall of the bookshelf.
That was nice, maybe I should do it again? I… Me… What is a me?
The thread floated off of the bookshelf, even though it was even larger than before it returned to floating like a feather caught in the wind. Landing on a large grey rectangle with two round holes in the middle with tiny ledges. Absorbing the information inside of the tape the thread could feel more… Images of a genie singing and dancing, of magic carpet rides, filled the thread to the brim.
...Genie… Granting wishes, helping others… there are others? Are they as important as me? Why wouldn’t they be as important as me, if I am important surely they are too…
The thread continued thinking, a new experience for it. While often compared and confused, obtaining sentience and sapience were very different things. The thread floated to one of the chairs it touched earlier, in front of the window just as a powerful wave of orangish light filled the room.
AAAH! Bright! I don’t like bright!
The thread floated quickly, up into the air as it found something hanging from the ceiling. Climbing inside the old oil reserve of a mining lamp the thread curled up inside of it. It was a tight fit sort of, even though the thread held no physical form, and could move through the material, it felt a sense of peace in the enclosed space.
It was dark earlier, but now it’s so bright, is this the sun?
Just like that, a thread of sentient mana began its journey of ascension. The return of magic has just begun, and the fun had only just started.
Time had passed, the lights were out surrounding the oil lamp. The thick red thread of mana pushed itself out of the opening in the tank of the lamp. Floating around the room in search of the overwhelming light. Upon finding the room to be soothing and dim it floated toward another stack of items.
Old clockwork toys bordering one hundred years lay in the pile, inoperable. There was a strong sense of good and contentment around the toys however. Imbued with the love of multiple owners the thread was drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
Much unlike a moth, however, this flame filled the thread; memories of decades past, children smiling and playing with the clockwork horse. Off and on from the moment, the horse was opened it has been enjoyed by over five different children, decades-spanning between the owners.
Love? Is this the love I have read about? Did the human children love this? It’s so warm, so peaceful… This horse should be able to have more.
And so, as mana does, it shaped the world around it. The thread shrunk ever so slightly as a small wave of silvery energy passes over the broken clockwork horse. The thread could feel it, could find the bent and missing pieces. If anything was in question all it need do is touch the horse again to experience its memories.
Not a sound, not a light, but a sense alerted the thread…
“I… I wish…”
The thread, unsure about communication as a whole, stopped what it was doing. It focused on the feeling, where it came from. The horse in the silver cocoon felt stronger somehow…
“I wish to bring joy again.”
The thread paused, realizing the sensation was coming from the horse as it fixed it. Gears formed out of the silver cocoon, replacing broken or missing pieces. But… The thread did not feel like this was what the horse meant. Doing its best, it opened its mind and tried to reach out.
You want to bring joy again? I can fix you, I can restore you.
For a short time there was no response so the thread continued its work, however, after the thread had restored the horse to factory fresh…
“I want to make them smile again… I wish to have purpose.”
Whatever form of soul this item had it was making a request. A request made directly to the mana. The thread searched its budding mind, looking for the knowledge of how to possibly help the clockwork horse. Settling on the memory of the plastic rectangle, the story of the genie… the story of magic.
The thread nodded what it assumed was its head. A sad yet hopeful tone in its inflection. Soon the toy was surrounded by red energy, the mana of the thread. There was a small shaking as the mana formed into magic and then suddenly… it was gone.
Both the toy and the surrounding cocoon of red mana were gone and the thread was pleased with itself. The thread didn’t; couldn’t know the details, not exactly, but it continued on its day somehow feeling that the clockwork horse was happier.
Far away, in a city too big to care about its people. A small child runs from a man holding a massive butchers knife.
“Get back here you rat! Those are my sausages you little thief!”
The butcher was chasing after a small child, maybe aged 7. The child was holding a selection of freshly cooked sausages the butcher sold in his restaurant. Suddenly the butcher stopped running, a loud THUD could be heard behind the child.
Quickly, darting behind a trash can the child hid itself and its ill-gotten gains. The butcher could be heard cursing around the side of the trash can but the child made no sound. After around five minutes the butcher walked away in a huff.
“Forget about the kid… I normally throw away that much daily anyway.” he grumbled as he went back the way from which he came.
After the butcher left, the child came from behind the trash can; looking around for whatever stopped the butcher in his tracks. Soon, the child came upon a dip in the road, not a small one, but a small bowl in the concrete of the street. In the bowl… A small clockwork horse. It’s metal tail had been dented and bent by the butcher tripping over it, but for the rest of it it looked pristine.
The child picked up the toy, a small note was attached to it.
“To a loving child.”
The thread continued on its journey, semi-sad that the clockwork horse was gone. However the feeling that everything was better than before could not be shaken, so it was in a good mood.
Mood… do I have moods? Oh, am I alive?! So… This is what being alive feels like, it feels remarkably different than not being alive.
The thread thought musingly, continuing on the thread touched dolls, toys, canes, glasses, so many items. The toys though, they always had the most love. It was hard to say no to a toy once it had made a wish, they were so pure and full of joy it felt impossible to turn them down.
While not too many, by the time the sun started rising the thread granted five wishes to five toys, all of them simply asking to be loved again.
The thread curled up in its small miner’s lamp and started resting right as the first few rays of dawn streaked into the antique shops stained glass windows.