[This story is paired with another, Olice and the Red Crystal Realm
You can read this story without having read the story before it, but the story before it will suffer mildly from that.]
Prologue: Of the Manners and Methods of Mages
A person is not the same when they become a mage, though for some of the beings of Kigan, with its leaf and branch covered sky, the change was not a large one.
The changes, in behaviour or body are not that great when the mage is still weak in power, but… great power at the same time as bringing greater freedoms, brings its own strong chains.
Did you know?
It is exceedingly rare for powerful mages to fight directly against each other. Only a madman would start a conflict with that amount of power, so much magic that defeating one’s foe would become meaningless or even impossible. Magescars, that is one name for the places where powerful mages have fought. In such places the flow of magic is wild, strong and thick, not to mention to those that know how, ripe for harvest. In such a place, anything within the power of magic could happen.
No, the costs of such mage duels are too high, so most powerful mages act a bit differently. Favours and catspaws. Those are said to be two of a mage’s most favourite non-magical things. It becomes almost like a game, two mages opposed for some reason or another, perhaps their aspects do not mesh, but they’ll take pieces from each other, an adventurer there will slay a beast here, a King here will have the new parts of his city designed in a particular fashion, all according to some plan or motive.
The plans and motives are frequently obscure to even those that know that they are a tool of a mage, some would say after a certain point, they are obscure to the mage who makes them. Still, lesser mages, beasts, men and women, many are guided, ordered, pushed or forced into these plans.
Thus does the progress of many a mage’s research or power continue.
Favours however, are by far many a mage’s preferred method of getting another to take action. It is said that a mage will rarely give a gift or perform a service without expecting a service or ‘gift’ in return.
Many powerful mages try to put other powerful mages in their debt. A person’s word has power when unbroken, but mages have through their actions chained themselves with a more powerful form of this, repeated actions give rise to patterns in the flow, currents by the weight of past action. If a mage gives their word, to break it would cause the flow of magic to turn against them. If a powerful mage owes a favour, it can mean the fruition of a whole grand plan. It can be an impact that changes the course of Kigan’s history.
Many mages live in seclusion solely to avoid this dance of interests and promises, hiding themselves and their research from prying eyes and the world with all its mess.
To speak of prying eyes, there are many people, nevermind mages who would love for the Magus of Eyes Liohk Balreah to owe them a favour. An exemplar of magic connected to eyes, what could hope to escape his gaze? Still, though many owe him favours, and he is unquestionably powerful, he is not all seeing.
In particular the Witch of Dimensions, Ira Kiopla could easily hide from his eyes, and indeed often did. Many people don’t like to be watched or spied upon, but most mages and most women would certainly be in that group.
No what worried Liohk was that he owed her a favour, on top of her being able to escape his gaze so completely.
Fortunately for Liohk, Ira needed that favour cashed in, and it wasn’t for the sake of some grand plan. Some mages treated apprentices like disposable resources, for others, they were like precious children, Liohk could understand someone going that far. It was unquestionably the case that Ira didn’t want to have to use the favour for this purpose, but she did, she was in some far off dimension that she could not easily return from, Liohk could not catch even a glimpse of this dimension. His sight was poor and limited in other dimensions at the best of times.
For Liohk this was a wonderful harvest, but he would in turn call upon a favour owed to him by another. A changeling mage by the name of Leshac, a dark wizard who had narrowly escaped total corruption of his self. Leshac owed Liohk a favour and it was ever the nature of mages to use one favour to deal with another.
Leshac at this time had finished disposing of the chlanic research that had almost claimed his self, he was living with an ex-apprentice of Liohk, and together with her was leisurely refocusing on magic of the night and shadows…