“Show me,” the wizard Abjicnal chanted, “show me his world. Let me see what he sees, through his eyes.” As the final word echoed through the craggy antechamber, the clear pool of heavy water at his feet glowed faintly. Within seconds the deep, near bottomless pool began reflecting new images, illuminated by the eerie blue light that permeated through it. The image of a comely lass clad in the burgundy and black uniform of the Imperial armada, the gold ropes adorning her shoulders denoting her rank and position of commander and chief tactician. She brushed some long, raven-black hair away from sky-blue eyes and mouthed words Abjicnal could not hear. To her left and a few feet behind, a slender, ebon skinned lady in a regal ivory jumpsuit nodded in agreement, her shoulder-length, curly auburn hair drooping in front of her as she did. Before them flickered a small bonfire, lighting their faces with a warm glow that illuminated the starry night sky.
Abjicnal clasped his hands behind his back and smiled.
“Even now he plots my downfall,” the wizard mused, “I have heard rumors that he had allied himself with the Emperor of Kensington and with the Queen Mother of the Garland kingdom, but if I weren’t seeing it with my own two eyes I would not believe it.”
The wizard harrumphed and gave a dismissive wave of his hand.
“No matter,” He said, “he could bring all of the armies in the world to face me, and it would still not be enough. I am the great wizard Abjicnal! I cannot be stopped.”
Abjicnal peered into the pool once more, gazing with interest as the vision before him moved out of the clearing with the Imperial strategist and over to a more secluded, wooded area. Out of the right corner of view he saw what appeared to be the Queen Mother walking alongside him.
“How futile your efforts are,” He said aloud, “You do not even realize that my scrying pool is enchanted specifically to your aura. Everything you see, I see. You cannot surprise me, for I will always see you coming.” The wizard clenched both his fists and his teeth as he growled, “You cannot win, and I will have my revenge!”
Before long, the wizard saw clearly the face of the Queen Mother, as she spoke what must have been some words of encouragement to her champion. Up close, the wizard saw what he had always known: Aleka, Queen Mother of Garland, had the most radiant face in the land. Framed by long, dark auburn curls and a royal tiara, her face was a perfect oval accented with high cheekbones and a pointed chin. Her skin, golden brown and satin smooth, was matched by large, hazel eyes as bright as twin suns.
She spoke through thick, pouting lips as her face moved closer, and her eyes closed.
Intrigued, the wizard’s eyebrows raised and a ponderous “hmmm” escaped from his lips. “Is this what I think it is?” he asked himself, “Is there some sort of affair between he and the Queen that I did not know about?”
The darkness gave way to Aleka’s smiling face, the darkberry glaze that once covered her lips now smudged from recent use. Abjicnal watched slack-jawed as the Queen Mother laid down on a patch of soft grass, licked her lips seductively, and beckoned her champion. Slowly, her figure came closer, and closer, and then her face came even closer.
“I knew that the Queen Mother of Garland never had a king to rule beside her,” The wizard observed, “and now I know why…”
He slowly stroked the silvery gray beard which hung down to his chest, and turned away from the pool. He paced around his hall once more, his mind awash with new possibilities.
“Yes,” he said, a wicked smile creeping across his face, “I can definitely use that to my advantage. Perhaps I can use my illusion spell to appear before her disguised as him, then I can use my emotion potion of Agarimnah to make her transfer her love from him to me. The potion only works on someone who is already in love, so this would be perfect.”
He stopped walking and nodded. “How it would demoralize him to see his beloved Queen, his most powerful ally, madly in love with his sworn enemy! It would make my victory that much sweeter!”
He began walking again, quickening his pace, pointing a finger at the shelves adorning the rocky walls, making flasks of foul liquids and archaic books appear and disappear almost at random. “Yes,” He said, the final “s” making a slow hissing sound, “It would be perfect! And once I have destroyed him, I can order her to designate me as her king, and I shall easily take over Garland! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?”
A throaty cackle echoed through the antechamber as his finger stopped in front of one shelf in particular. Some books and a pile of dead newts floated out of the way, revealing a wooden box. Still laughing, he walked over to the box and pulled it down, opening it to reveal a fine, yellowish powder. With two fingers he pinched some of it and let it flow through his hands back into the box.
“The only problem,” he mumbled with a frown, “would be getting it into her food. The formula must be eaten to be effective. A pity.”
The wizard turned and marched back to the pool, box in hand. He looked back down and saw only darkness. The frown was quickly replaced with a sly grin.
“He must be asleep,” Abjicnal said, “Then perhaps his colleagues are asleep, too. If I move quickly enough, I can teleport to their location and sneak the potion into Queen Mother Aleka’s rations. Then, when she awakes and eats, I can show up to destroy him. And when she rises up to stand by his side, I can cast the activation spell and turn her into my slave right before his eyes.” The wizard nodded, “It will be glorious!”
Abjicnal turned away from the pool yet again and headed to the northeast corner of the antechamber, stopping at a section of the brick floor marked off by a triangle surrounded by a linked ring of circles adorned with strange glyphs. It was his teleportation circle.
“Yes,” he hissed as he approached the symbol, “Now is the perfect time to strike!”
Then he stopped just short of the triangle.
“But why should I conquer merely one kingdom,” he asked himself, “when I can just as easily have two?” Swiftly he turned back around and walked back to the pool, tattered purple robe rustling with his movement. He waved his free hand as he walked, and a large wooden table rose out of the pale brick.
“If the Emperor’s chief tactician is also there,” Abjicnal said as he approached the table, “then perhaps I can bring her under my spell along with the Queen Mother.” A wave of his arms, and various flasks, boxes and pouches dislodged from the shelves and floated towards him at once.
“With her intimate knowledge of the Emperor’s domain and battle strategies,” he deduced hurriedly, “It would be child’s play to decimate the empire’s army, invade their stronghold, and even bring Vladimir, the mighty Emperor himself, under my boot!” Abjicnal’s eyes widened with giddiness, and he gave a mad chuckle as he added, “But there is not nearly enough powder for the both of them. I must make more!”
The thought of having two of the most beautiful – and certainly two of the most powerful – women in the world as his love slaves filled his mind as he feverishly worked to double his dosage of the mysterious mind-control medicine. Within a couple of hours his thoughts had turned from merely using them in conquest to the more perverse things he could make them do while they were under his thrall. By the fourth hour, his thoughts of them were so perverse that he decided to triple the dosage.
“Yes,” he hissed, “Triple the dosage for each of them! That would make the effect irreversible! They would be mine forever!” Another throaty cackle escaped his lips before he calmed himself down.
“No,” he said, “I must not overdo it. Too much and they become mindless slaves. They would be no good to me then. I need the tactician’s mind to conquer Kensington,” he sneered, “And I want Queen Mother Aleka to have enough of her mind to know she is betraying both her beloved kingdom and her beloved champion…and yet be unable to stop herself.”
He stopped mixing the powder, and held a new alabaster box aloft in the dim light. “Only then will my revenge be complete,” he said with a devilish smile.
A beacon went off in his mind, and he quickly set his box down and raced to the pool’s edge.
“He stirs?” The wizard asked as he neared the pool, “It is too soon! How can this be?”
With shock, Abjicnal gazed into the murky pool of heavy water. At first, he saw nothing, only the darkness of closed eyes. But then, slowly but surely, the darkness gave way to a small sliver of light. The sliver got wider, revealing not only light but shape, form and hue. Before long, the darkness was gone, replaced by a kaleidoscope of blues yellows, grays and purples, too fuzzy to make sense of.
“I knew I should have cast a sleeping spell on him!” The wizard grumbled, “I needed him to sleep for longer.” He harrumphed and folded his arms before adding, “No matter. I am patient. I will get them the next time they sleep.”
By the time Abjicnal finished mumbling to himself, the shapes in the pool had solidified, and the blur was gone. Before him he saw a damp, pale blue brick floor stretching out before him, stopped only by craggy rock walls, some of which had smooth stone shelves carved into them with assorted artifacts held within. He saw in one corner a circle of circles surrounding a triangle painted onto the floor. He saw in another corner a sturdy wooden table, upon which sat a variety of arcane ingredients, and two alabaster boxes of fine powder.
He saw, behind the table, the back of a silver-haired figure clad in tattered purple, hunched over a large reflecting pool, his hands clutched in shock and disbelief.
And the figure was getting closer.
“WHAT?!?!?” The wizard yelled as a sudden dread came over him, “IT’S NOT POSSIBLE!”
A wide-eyed, horrified Abjicnal spun around just in time to see a pair of massive, ebon-skinned hands shove him backwards.
The wizard flew back, flailing his arms about while in midair. He had a split second to decide whether to cast a spell to keep him airborne; or a spell to protect him from the deep, heavy water; or a spell to destroy his assailant. Time was up.
Without even a splash, Abjicnal landed on his scrying pool, his body immediately sinking into the viscous fluid. He tried to thrash his arms, free them to cast one last spell, but the syrupy water proved too thick to move through.
How did they get so close to him? How did they bypass all of his defenses? He could not lose! His plan was foolproof! The mystery of his defeat burned through his mind even as he sank further into the watery murk.
He opened his mouth to mutter one last curse at Zion, the Hero of Legend, the Champion of Garland, the hated nemesis who sealed his fate, but by then his face had sunken beneath the surface, and the heavy water had filled his mouth and lungs.
“Well,” Zion quipped as he watched the renegade wizard plummet into the gelatinous pool, “That was rather anticlimactic.”
The dim light gleamed off of his bald head as he folded massive, muscular brown arms and looked to his right. “You know,” he said, “with all of the arcane knowledge of magic and potions and enchantments and lore Abjicnal picked up over the years, you’d think he’d have taken the time to learn how to swim.”
To his left stood Aleka, her left hand still holding a lit torch, her large hazel eyes still gleaming with hope and vivacity. “The wizard’s scrying pool is nothing to make light of, my beloved champion. Its water is enchanted to be as deep and as thick as the world through which it peers. Those foolish enough to find themselves immersed in it very seldom return to the surface.”
Zion looked back at the scrying pool, which was as clear and smooth as before it had swallowed its master. He nodded and said, “Taima will be happy to know her strategy worked. Of all the possible entrances to this lair, he had to keep one cavern unenchanted so his service imps could deliver him artifacts and potion ingredients to work with.”
Aleka tossed the torch into the pool and gave her husband a wide smile of gleaming white teeth. “Her strategies rarely fail,” she said, “It’s amazing the amount of intelligence she is able to gather on her targets. It was she who first found out about the enchantment Abjicnal had put on you.” She walked over to Zion and hugged him from behind, wrapping her thin, golden brown arms around his waist and running healing fingers across his chiseled stomach.
“I am so glad we have her and Kensington as allies,” she chirped, “I’d much rather the empire was on our side than against us.”
Zion turned and glanced back at his wife and Queen with intrigue. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” he said, “Do you really think it is wise to ally the kingdom with Vladimir? I mean, you know his track record and all…”
Aleka let go and laughed, a rich, musical laugh that sounded almost like birds chirping. “Zion, my love,” she replied, “We’ve been over this a million times. Vladimir and Taima have stood beside us through too much for us not to trust them. As long as we don’t see each other as threats, our fiefdoms will continue to get along just fine.”
“I’m still unconvinced,” Zion retorted with his usual harrumph.
Aleka put an arm on her champion’s back and escorted him back into the hole from which they came, “Well, perhaps this time I’ll be able to sway you to my way of thinking,” she then winked and included, “Over dinner and wine in our bedroom.”
Zion couldn’t resist smiling back at his Queen. He reached up to his throat and clutched at something, saying, “I guess I won’t be needing this anymore,” before lifting the item over his head and tossing it aside.
As the two left the antechamber, a black rag, no longer of any use as a blindfold, fell harmlessly to the pale brick floor.
Private Mod Note
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The initiate hurried out, and Shu Yun turned to his most trusted scribe, Quan. When Shu Yun had set out for this summit, he brought Quan with him. There was no scribe more reliable, and Quan could write for many hours without stopping.
Quannage, The Scrying Pool
The usual setting: mad wizard who wants to dominate everything gets tricked by the valorous champion. However, this time he is not destroyed by a battle, but by wit. Although he interprets the idea of “confrontation” in a wider way, the author still creates an interesting twitch in the story by this tactic.
The stereotypes he uses (including the descriptions of the women) bother me a little bit, though, because I sadly miss irony here, maybe except for the madness of the wizard. And without irony those characters are hardly bearable.
------------------------------ Flow/Pacing: (4/5) Quality of Structure: (4/5) Quality of Content: (3.5/5) Originality of Content: (4/5) Grammar: (3.5/5)
------------------------------ Overall Score: :rate5::rate5::rate5::rate4: (19/25)
Flow/Pacing Score: 4 Comments: Overall, the story had a decent flor and pace, and well kept my attention. It felt too much like the story was trying to close from a novel, the end being much more drawn out then needed.
Quality of Structure Score: 2 Comments: For what it was worth, the story flowed well, but the idea behind it was lacking. A wizard who spends too much time in his basement is trying to take over the land. For all the power this wizard wields, he shouldn't have much trouble offing his adversaries. Also, this piece has a slight love-novel feeling, parts resembling much like my mother's love novels where the authors spend too much time finding alternate words for ****, ****, *******, *****, ***, and others.
Quality of Content Score: 5 Comments: While the structure of the short story lacked, the colorful and descriptive words the author wields are truly at his power. Not for one instant did I feel like I couldn't imagine the world and scenery we were in. Good Job.
Originality of Content Score: 2.5 Comments: Again, while the story was not up to par, the ending was good. Although a little predictable, some work could really polish up the setting and flow, giving this short story a much more original and developed personality.
Grammar Score: 4.5 Comments: Just a few spelling and punctuation mistakes here and there.