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     Five Minutes ago, Still at the diner.

     “You know, I’d bet you could make meat, without needing to make something it comes off of.” Jerome mused, finishing off his extra super-sized big gush.

     “Probably, someone would need to wish for it first though. I can’t do much without someone wanting it to happen.” Will responded, floating around The now empty milkshake glass.

     “Excuse me, did you just say ‘Wish?’” Came a regal voice, measured and practiced to a fault.

     “Yeah! Do you want something?” Will asked before Jerome could move his hands to cover the youth’s mouth. Jerome hadn’t even looked up to notice the man’s features but his voice alone made the hair on the back of the sheriff's neck stand on end.

     “Yes little genie, I want power, I want magic, I wish for the most powerful magic weapon you can create!” The Elf spoke, lost in his own little moment of grandeur. In reality, he looked like a lunatic complete with wide smile and cackling laughter... that is, until the light descended.

     A massive column of orange light burst through the roof of the dinner, only four feet in diameter it slammed right through without caving in the roof. Slowly falling down the column of light was a staff.

     Ornate, made of a branch of wood whiter than the driven snow. The bark stripped and expertly sanded down. A massive green jewel surrounded by gold adorned the top of the staff and it hummed with magical power.

     “YES! YES YES! I have no idea what it is but YES! The power is mine.” Terrance the High Elf laughed. Not some maniacal laugh, a quiet embarrassing chuckle with a few ‘hyucks’ mixed in.

     “Hey, you better pay for the repairs!” Jerome growled at the man, causing him to stop laughing.

     “Me… Pay? Someone like you is more apt at cleaning up this filth. I am now greater than you, all of you!” And with that, Terrance, wild-eyed and manic pointed his staff at the sheriff, who barely dodged in time as a single word slipped from his lips. “Igna-Anima!”

     A swarm of two-inch-long snakes made of pure fire slammed into the seat Jerome had just been sitting in. The snakes didn’t have fangs, instead a single white-hot searing light sprouted from their open mouths as they bit down on their target.

     Jerome looked up from the floor beside the seat. “Oh, that was a big mistake.”

     Terrance looked annoyed. “You should die like a good peasant!” Another stream of flaming snakes came at Jerome as he grabbed Will and ran as fast as he could.

     “What’s going on? I granted his wish, I thought he’d be happy. Why is he destroying everything?” Will nearly screamed in anguish as someone used their creation to cause pain and destruction on the world. To a force of pure creation, destruction was anathema to them; they could not seem to wrap their mind around it.

     “There’s an old saying in our world that some people just want to watch the world burn. No matter how cliche it sounds it’s genuinely true.” Jerome wheezed as he ran out the front door of the diner only to be face to face with his brother soon.

     “What’s…?” Darnell barely got out before Jerome spoke.

     “Wish gone wrong. Magic, some kinda fire. Get everyone you can out of the are and find me some water!” Jerome spoke so fast his words were barely recognizable to Jamie, however Darnell, used to his brother’s crisis management, looked horrified.

     Me… Too…

     “Huh? What? Really?” Will spoke out loud.

     “Yeah, you were there for it Will.” Jerome sounded annoyed.

     “No not you, hush, let me listen,” Will said with exasperation.

     Will listened hard to the voice’s next few words, the sound coming from Jerome’s backpack just as the diner’s front door blew open in an explosion of flame.

     “There you are. Now, you should not disobey your betters. You are supposed to DIE!” Terrance screamed, sounding regal one second before slowly devolving into a near mad cackle.

     The High Elf leveled his staff, pointing the glowing gold-encrusted gem at the brothers. Pouring every last speck of magical energy he could feel into the attack; a wave of magical snakes of pure burning blue flame washed towards the brothers.

     “NO!” Screamed the voice of creation.

     ***

     Time stood still, no, time is unneeded in the exchange of spiritual thought.

     Will listened intently.

     “I know I have made my wish of you. I know you have granted me the peace I so desired. But peace does nothing to stop it from happening again. I must be ready, I must be able… Grant me the power.”

     Will spoke with a voice that was not their own. A voice with something More, a voice of something greater. “What power do you wish to have?”

     “Power greater than any other, power that cannot be misused.”

     Again, the voice of More spoke, “That power is counter to this universe. All power may be misused, all knowledge corrupted.”

     “I will not be a weapon again, I will not be a torture device. IT IS YOU WHO LEFT US!”

     The voice of More was silent, stunned. Even in this timeless place of pure thought, a prolonged silence was felt before More spoke again. “So be it.”

     ***

     Jerome saw a massive sheet of black metal appear in front of him just as the animated fire made its way toward him and his brother. Grabbing it and hoping for the best a strap wrapped around his arm. Words appeared on the inside of the shield.

     Kindness is the only true protection of the meek from the mighty.

     The shield grew, its form expanding to the size of a small wall. It got heavier and heavier as it did so and somehow, Jerome just knew that if he let the bottom touch the earth then all would be lost. Heaving with one arm supporting the other, sweat dripped down his brow burning his eyes as he fought to keep his brother and himself alive.

     “Jerome! Darnell!” Zippy called from behind the brothers as the attack of flame snakes slammed against the shield, finding nothing to bite down on they dissipated as they touched it.

     “WILL! WHAT DID YOU DO?!” Jamie called from behind the gnome, almost like a chiding parent.

     “I just thought it would make them happy! How was I supposed to know he’d use a freaking cylinder to kill people?!” Will called, more personality than ever in their voice, yet the sound of someone who just knew how guilty they were rang true.

     “We’ll talk later, how do we deal with this guy?”

     Zippy responded, after the entire group was ducking behind the shield. “Oh, you don’t. I do.” The gnome growled, actually growled a predator’s growl as he disappeared in a puff of sparkly purple smoke.

     Only Will saw as they didn’t actually use eyes to see as Zippy appeared directly behind Terrance. Slamming him to the ground and bent his hands-free of the staff. Audible snaps could be heard as he subdued the radicalized file clerk. Soon, the sound ceased, and the smell of burnt flesh and despair crept over the group.

     The shield lowered and shrinking down. Jerome looked at the elf. He was out cold, and both of his arms were badly broken, but he was alive. Jerome gave Zippy an accusatory glare.

     The Gnome spoke, “Would you believe me if I said he just wouldn’t drop it? I broke every bone in his hand and he just tucked it under his arm.” Jerome sighed, that sounding as plausible considering the deranged subject as the less tasteful alternative reasoning.

     Clarice ran out of the diner screaming. “Gus! My son! My son’s hurt! Come quick!”

     Jerome and Darnell darted into the smoking diner. The flames not fully extinguished yet. Billy Joe had to hold Jamie back from doing the same.

     Luckily the brothers were able to douse the flames quickly. Will and Clarice both came inside the diner slowly. Clarice, knowing and not wanting to see the injuries wrought by the attack. And Will, afraid to see what someone did with their creation.

     Four bodies with features too charred to be identified laid inside the diner. One was wearing a waitress uniform and Jerome got even more sick to his stomach.

     Clarice’s son Gustav was on the ground. Breathing shakily, half of his chest was badly burnt and you could see some rib bones through his flesh.

     Will, the being of pure magic; the genie with powers beyond his own understanding wept. Red energy massed around their form as the ropelike body grew. The tears grew louder and more sorrowful, nearly hopeless as the collected energy of all the mourners gathered around them.

     As the swirling energy dissipated two thin arms and a humanoid body remained. The head was replaced by a hood, drawn and made magically impossible to see under. “Wh… what may I do?”

     Clarice, screaming at the top of her lungs as she wept. “You’re magic! Fix them! Fix the people! Fix the building! FIX IT!”

     Will, looking even further down with his new hooded form. “I… I can’t. Not everything. I’ll grant the rest.” He raised his arms, pointing to the charred register and the young man.

     Magic swirled around the room, the entire building, as everyone's vision was covered in a pleasing pink. The normal panic accompanying blindness was gone as a feeling of wellness washed over them. Soon the blindness ceased, the diner was restored, cleaned until sparkling.

     The burn victims were asleep, sitting or leaned over in different booths. Their wounds healed, their clothes restored. Unfortunately, because it wouldn’t help to ‘fix’ them Will’s power was taken away before it could remove the horrid memories. The scars will forever remain mental.

     The bodies, however… they remained charred and on the ground. Will appeared over the four of them, solemnly gazing at them from their featureless face. “I can’t fix this… They’re too degraded, the fire destroyed the parts I would have needed to bring them back to life.”

     Clarice stood shocked, “Bring them back?”

     Wills featureless face nodded. “Twenty Minutes and some change. As long is their brain is unharmed even if it’s just the front. I just… Know. I know that I can bring someone back within twenty minutes and twelve seconds. I’m… I’m so sorry, but for this, I’m powerless.”

     Clarice, Jerome, and Darnell all looked down in shame. They were the elders, members of the council of this town. They should have known better, done something to prevent this.

     Jamie, after hearing this from the open door walks in. “I have a wish too.”

     “Hey, slow down, shouldn’t we think this over?” Darnell tried to speak but Jerome held an arm in front of him, silently signaling him ‘not now.’

     “J-Jamie?” Will’s voice cracked.

     “Yes, as the person who’s shop you were born in I give you a wish.” Jamie had no idea if this would give them any more lee-way but they hoped.

     “I will grant it. If I am able.” The genie seemed downtrodden, unsure.

     “Take yourself, take all you will need. Find someplace on this mountain to defend yourself. Keep yourself safe. Do anything you think you will need to short of killing someone to protect yourself from those who would misuse your power. I give you this wish with whatever and all authority I possess.” Jamie did their best to stay steady. The words came of their own accord, not somewhere else, but within their own spirit yet they came freely and without delay.

     The words left Jamie feeling weak, not physically but they braced themself against the door. Whatever they had done, Will's form was glowing brighter now, something was changing.

     Everyone in the room was overwhelmed with shocked and powerful feelings, including the elated emotions of the waking burn victims when they found themselves unharmed flooded the building. The emotional energy swirling around Will again, changing their form again.

     For a split second Will’s form was that of a burning bonfire, covering everyone in the room and harming none. The next it changed to a small light inside of the lamp. That’s when everyone in the dinner made of flesh closed their eyes and covered their ears as quickly as they could.

     The sound of bubble wrap the size of a mountain erupted inside the repaired building.

     A wave of greenish orange light washed over the entire town of Barthell. As the light touched every single person and beast no one noticed a change, no one except Ziggy.

     “WHAT?! NO NO NO! How are we going to be able to handle that many all at once!?” The gnome screamed.

     Jamie, who couldn’t see the problem looked confused. “Uhm… too many what?”

     Zippy whined, “That damn genie just started every person on this rock down their road to rebirth. Plus who knows what else! He just poured all six of the basic schools of magic directly into all of your forms.”

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A note from Blackguard

Arc 1 'Awakening' Is complete.

The Peaceful lives of the peoples of Barthel will never be the same

Best Wishes,
Blackguard.

P.S. Due to recent horrifying events unfolding in Kentucky plot points in later chapters will reflect the flooding of serial killers and worse into my state.

Dwarves will return with its regularly scheduled release tomorrow, starting Arc Two 'Expansion.' Please stick around for reveals about the dungeon rules and interface hinted at during the interludes.


About the author

Blackguard

Bio: Amateur writer and ravenous reader. I do my best to keep consistent if not generous updates, comments are welcome and encouraged. Nonbinary Zebra.

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