A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Hello everybody and thanks for your reads!

A long time ago I shouted out a story called The Houndsman by Hounds/J Pal, well today it just hit Amazon. So I wanted it shout it out again for its journey to a new place! You can find it here.

Alrighty, let's get into it!

Alex had been paying attention to Professor Jules, but hearing her mention the empire where the hunter was spotted so many years before—and her grim tone—gave him a twinge of shock.

“It must be pretty bad.” Alex said. “Binding isn’t usually too friendly a word, especially when it’s used in wizardry, so I’m already imagining the worst.”

“Imagining the worst is correct,” she said. “When the first golem proved to be a disaster, summoners from among the wizards stepped up to provide a solution that alchemy could not, at the time. …have you ever taken a summoning course, Alex?”

“I’m taking one this summer.”

“Good.” She carefully drew the substance she was working with and placed it in a reinforced flask, which she then moved away from her work area to cool. “It is a useful art, and one better to learn in detail from Professor Mangal. She is far more studied in the art than I. For our purposes, it is important to note that summoning and alchemy often cross paths: you remember when I conjured the shoggoth, of course.”

Alex shuddered. “I’ll never forget it.”

“In any case, not for the first time or the last, summoners stepped up to seek a solution. They had the thought that since a golem’s body is made of similar materials to some elementals, that the spirit of an elemental might be well suited to power and control such a body without the need for a golem core.”

She activated the cooling glyph on her cauldron and let the metal decrease to room temperature. Alex took the pot and carried it over to the sink to wash. “When you have your first class with Professor Mangal,” Jules continued. “She will teach you about binding circles. To simplify things, they prevent creatures that are summoned from getting out and starting a ruckus.”

“Right, I remember the circle that was on the lid of the cauldron you summoned the shoggoth into.”

“Correct. Summoners had the idea of creating a binding circle within a golem’s body. They then conjured an elemental within that body, and permanently bound it inside such a shell. And they did in fact find success: earth elementals were very proficient at controlling clay or stone bodies, iron bodies could be controlled by earth or fire elementals, and water elementals could control bodies made of ice. Now, there was an odd…side-effect to the process, which was both a boon and a problem.”

She placed her tools back into a nearby drawer.

Pausing, professor Jules shifted one of the tools slightly so that it was perfectly straight and parallel with the others. She gave it a little nod of satisfaction and closed the drawer.

“What was the side-effect?” Alex filled the cauldron with a solution of water and soap, then had his Wizard’s Hands begin to scrub it while he began washing some flasks.

“They became highly resistant to magic.”

Alex paused. “Pardon?”

“You see, a binding circle’s purpose is to form a barrier so that a creature caught within cannot exit nor use its magic outside,” she said. “When it was inside a golem’s body, it was not so much a ‘circle’ as it was a binding ‘knot’. The elemental then completely filled that knot, raging within its prison.”

She paused, adding water to a nearby beaker until it was filled to the brim. “Take this cup, for example. It is filled with water, isn’t it?”

“That’s right…though there could be contaminants in there besides water, since that isn’t distilled water,” he said. “Plus with the ambient mana around, there’s going to be mana in there too. We can’t know for sure what’s in there unless we test it, but for the sake of your question, I think we can say that it is.”

Alex could see a smile reach Jules’ eyes through her mask. “Good, Mr. Roth, I am pleased to see you were paying attention during my class. And indeed, for our argument, it is completely filled with water. So, to add anything else to the beaker, you would need to displace some of the water. Well, an elemental filling one of these golems was like the water in this glass: shoving away any magic that tried to touch the circle.”

“Right, because unlike the water, the elemental was trapped in there and couldn’t be shoved out. And—excuse my language—it was probably massively pissed off and its energy struck out at any other magic that touched it.”

“That’s fairly close to accurate. When you combine all of these aspects together, the binding ‘knot’s’ function of keeping magic ‘in,’ turned two ways; in and out: it edged out any magic that touched it. So, bound-elemental powered golems could not be controlled by mental command—only verbal—but in return, they were viciously effective bodyguards and weapons against other wizards.”

“I can just imagine.” Alex glanced back at Claygon as he set the cauldron and glassware to dry. He imagined his golem attacking him while being nearly immune to magic. What a terrifying scenario for a wizard. Even a regular golem was far physically superior to most mortal wizards, and if magic just splashed off of them like water, there’d be little they could do except…well, get smashed.

But then again…

“I think I see the downside. If it edges out all magic, then it means you won’t be able to cast any spells on it yourself. I took Claygon into battle recently, and if Isolde wasn’t able to cast a flight spell on him, we would’ve all been screwed.”

“That is correct,” Professor Jules said. “A major limitation, but still, the design was seen as being very useful…for a time.”

“Let me guess, and not even an ‘educated’ one,” Alex said. “Angry, enslaved elementals wouldn’t exactly be super cooperative and eventually, the golems went berserk?”

“En masse,” she said grimly. “When one broke its shackles and went berserk, it usually caused others nearby to do the same.”

“And then everything went to hell.”

“Absolutely. By then, alchemists had made incredible advancements with golem cores, so they were able to make them far safer.” She finally took her mask off and blinked at Alex owlishly. “And that is why we use golem cores these days.”

“What about the Irtyshenan Empire?” Alex asked. “You said they still bind elementals to use in golems?”

She sighed. “In a sense…their wizards devised a means to effectively destroy an elemental’s mind upon its binding, like if one had simply injected acid through the skull and into the brain. With the mind destroyed, the elemental spirit is still there to power the golem, but it has no mind to resist, or actually move the body and process instructions. So, through some very clever design, those alchemists constructed a control system within the golem itself. An individual must sit inside the ‘golem’s’ body to move and control it, which still provides a powerful, magically resistant body.”

Alex blinked, considering what professor Jules had just said. “That sounds awful…but great for whoever’s controlling this…golem, or I guess ‘mechanized suit of armour’. They’d be dangerous, while being safe inside a magically hardened body—empowered by an elemental—that's resistant to magic. And, the golem’s body would be directly controlled by a sapient intellect. That…that’d be pretty terrifying on the battlefield.”

“It is,” Jules said. “Which is why the empire continues to make them—out of the best materials, using their best crafters—even if the process is very long, expensive, involved, and cruel. I understand that knightly houses there are built upon being able to field these elemental war suits, just as the houses of knights in other realms are built around being able to afford armour and warhorses. It is why they enjoy the privilege of land, title and serfs.”

Alex frowned. “This…this empire doesn’t sound like a very nice place.”

His professor gave him a look. “There are few places that are, Mr. Roth. Especially if you look long enough.”

One thing that Alex could say was that he didn’t have to look very long at the location for his summoning class to decide that it probably wasn’t a nice place.

Instead of being within the main castle of Generasi, the Summoner’s Tower was built on campus a good distance from other buildings. It had a dark, sinister look to it: its stones were completely covered in glyphs and runes from a dozen different languages and wizarding traditions. Most of the glyphs had a sharp, evil look to them, and some outright glowed in the mix of star and moonlight.

Alex recognized them as protective sigils that kept otherworldly creatures sealed within the towers’ walls, and he’d heard that those sigils were also placed in many of the chambers devoted to summoning within The Cells.

Not really helping the image of the place, were the sorts of students coming in and out of it. They themselves weren’t the issue—they looked like normal Generasi students for the most part—but it was what was following them that gave one pause.

Most had some sort of animal familiar—like Khalik—but they also had some kind of monstrous companion tagging along with them. A tall, intimidating looking man had two devilish imps on his shoulders that were bickering in their infernal imp tongue. A tiny young woman—with a monkey’s tail—sat cross-legged on the back of a golden cloud-like air elemental, which hummed ominously as it floated.

A fire elemental crackled through the air behind a burly orcish fellow, and something that looked like some sort of metal creature made entirely of floating blades and chains drifted along in front of a young beast woman who resembled a spotted cat.

The strange, metal creature made unnerving grinding and clanking noises as it passed Alex. Other students had less ominous things following them, like sprites, butterflies and tiny spirits from other planes, but all in all, it made for a rather disquieting image.

Alex pulled his cloak tighter around himself. Was he imagining it or had a chill suddenly swept through the air?

He grew more uncomfortable as he remembered the demon and its horde of lesser demons that somebody conjured at Carey London’s rally, and he had a twinge that he might not fit in the summoning world. He was less of a ‘followed around by an otherworldly monster guy’ and more of a…a…

“Claygon, what kind of a guy am I?” he asked his golem.

Then he paused.

“Oh right, ‘a followed around by an invincible doom golem kind of guy’,” he said flatly.

‘One that’s made of parts of a horrible apocalyptic dungeon core,’ he mentally added. ‘Maybe I will fit in with all these demon summoners, after all.’

Shaking his head, he kept walking toward the tower.

The moment Alex stepped through the front doors, he got the feeling that much of the ‘creepy atmosphere’ might have been intentional. The ground level of the tower had a strange haze in the air that smelled of smoke, forest, bog and ocean all at once. He couldn’t help but be reminded of The Cave of the Traveller with its smells from all the places its permanently open portals led to.

Veiled in the haze were statues: the surface of the walls were carved with statues of dozens of different otherworldly beings that were made to look like they were emerging from the walls.

‘Portals,’ Alex thought. ‘The statues look like summoned creatures and the walls are supposed to be portals.’

Because of his sensitivity to mana in general, he realised that real portals filled the tower, and his…affinity or whatever he had for teleportation magic, made him extra sensitive to magic that teleported, transported or conjured things.

The combination of those things had Alex feeling every summoning spell and portal throughout the tower, almost overwhelming him as he climbed the winding staircase. Of course—as was the case in every creepy story about a creepy wizard’s tower—his destination was at the very top. Naturally, there were a lot of stairs to climb, but at last, he reached his objective.

Alex gasped.

The ceiling—much like that of the botanical gardens—was completely transparent, and he could see the stars shining in the night sky above. One wall of the seminar room was plastered with star charts and diagrams of the different planes. In the centre of the room was a summoning circle surrounded by the familiar glyphs as well as large cushions arranged in a circle around it.

It looked like he was the first person to arrive, which was no surprise since he’d come fairly early, as he usually did for his classes. He looked at the glyphs intently. They’d been etched deep into the floor: no chance of a gust of wind or an accidental spill ruining a chalk diagram here.

Alex paused. The stone within the circle rippled like water.

A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Not going to lie, I love the mechanics of the golem/power suits. 

Okay, that's all for now! Seeya tomorrow!

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