Category: The Sixth Age of Sand

23. No Mask

The townhouse squatted amongst its similar brethren in this university town as though it should have been completely unremarkable. For the most part, it was. The morning had arrived and the researchers who were already working feverishly on trying to discover as much about magic as they could, now that there was an abundance of the stuff to research. Students had stayed home, for the most part, and some of the people who simply were lucky enough to live in the area near public transport, and with reasonable rates and jobs, had thought the same idea held true. Magic was making half the world rush to someplace to do something and the other half to hunker down in their homes and hope someone did something.

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22. Complications

Warlocks were one of the older forms of human magic. When there had been a little magic in the world, there had been a variety of methods to collect it and use it, though there was not an understanding of the task as it was undertaken. For most of human history, magic was unknown not because it was rare, but because people thought it was common. Every fungus-eating hedge-wizard who had ideas about not eating excrement was seen as magical, while real acts of magic were few and far between.

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21. London, Without

“Olympics, they say.”

Angus looked up when he heard the voice. It was a sound that wasn’t just his own footfalls in this eerily unpopulated London. It was a sound that had motivation and purpose behind it, it was a signal that there was someone else here. The words did not just speak to him, they spoke of a human being.

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19. Doing A Bunch Of Stuff

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about patterns is that once a pattern is established, in the human mind, it takes precious little for that pattern to start to reach backwards. It doesn’t have to have been a pattern always, but the hints of the pattern, the beginning of the pattern, or even unrelated things that coincide with parts of the pattern, will be seen as part of the pattern. This, not surprisingly, is how many people saw miracles to happen; they pray, and it rains, and they forget the times they prayed and it did not rain, or the times it rained without their prayer. The pattern was in their mind, and that pattern remains, it grows, and it expands. The weather. The traffic. The colour of a piece of cloth.

Something written in a newspaper.

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18. The Gaze of Heaven

The rattling of the truck carried Holland away from what was left of the school. Images of what had happened whirled back and forth, along with scents and tastes – the way that the whole school had been there. The opening of a vast eye in the sky. The shuddering of the buildings. The way each and every part of Holland’s body had lifted up, as if leaping for joy, and streaked up towards the heavens. In one long, disorienting moment, Holland remembered seeing other students, friends, teachers, and yes, even some enemies whose sins had seen so petty and mundane, in hindsight drift up to the sky. Clad in their uniforms, the bright red school ties and socks seeming to flare and brightly splash against the sky.

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17. Forgettable Ye

They had called him many things. The men of his tribe called him chieftain, the women called him lord. They called him the Lion of Monoah, Those he had conquered called him The Son of the Sun, and knew better than to look upon him, for he would tear out their eyes, and leave them as slaves even unto their own people.

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16. Drink The Blood

There are things that people think of as fundamentally human that are actually a byproduct of a trend. A shared cultural behaviour, where seeing Carl do it makes Terry more likely to do it and that makes Janey more likely to do it until suddenly, they think everyone does it and there’s something weird about the people across the world who don’t do it. Because hey, everyone does it – what are you, some kind of weirdo?

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15. First Night

The drifting swells of the ocean knew not the shape in which they sat. To one drop of water, forward is as abirtary a distinction as flamingo, and so they simply respond to the whims of gravity and other related forces. Somewhere, a very irritated lecturer explains how centrifugal isn’t a word, and another points out it’s as good as any other, and a mathemetician mocks them both in the privacy of her skull, but the water doesn’t care. The water’s been in her body, in his, in his, and it has been in Napolean’s and it’s been in the earliest moments from the dawning of the world. It has been part of a tar and it has been part of an ocean, and in this moment, it was part of a storm.

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14. Bisecting the Spiral

Angus sat, despondent, in the corner booth of the cheerful little red-and-white diner, watching the clock’s hand a second time in one day. The afternoon had been full of strange news. There had been a school bombing. There had been an outburst of individuals claiming magical powers. A christian cult in the middle of Utah had claimed to be the White Horse in many forms. Palestine, oh god, Palestine. For the first time since they had been called into existence, the twenty-four hour news coverage channels actually had a reason to report constantly. This wasn’t 1952, when a single superpower had gained something they’d been striving to gain for months – in one single day, every single nation had suddenly had ‘magic’ appear – and appear out of nowhere.

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13. Ordinary

Men called the continent Africa. In the midst of a jungle people thought fit to name The Congo, then called a rainforest instead, there was part of what could be considered a country. The country, to call it that, had had two dozen names in twice as many years, almost all of which were just different ways of saying ‘mine.’ Out in the spiralling edges of where men could consider themselves in control, where they built big hard walls and tight windows, spread across with netting and filled with light from tubes, sat a squat little building, barely more than five paces by two, with one room. Some of the men who had ordered the building made had called the building, with its rig of steel up the side and its short, squat tower designed to handle the winds Onderstation Twaalf. Some other men had called it substasie 12, and another set of men had called it a thing that could not be written down, because their language had not yet learned to sit still on paper.

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12. Banes

The truth of magic is not ancient words or particular runes. The Chellini hypothesis talks about magic’s inception, its eventual appearance in a reality of large numbers. The truth of magic, in the ages of Sand, is that of patterns. Things that happen happen again. Certain shapes – shapes of energy, mostly – pull the energy of the magic in, dictate a new pattern, and reshape the magic so it flows forth anew. To manipulate energy is easy – and thus, most of the magic that people learn early is to throw lightning and fire, to release energy that flows uncontrolled and wild. Given the nature of people, more than the nature of magic, this is almost all the magic that needs to be discovered before the people, discovered, are never in a positioned to be discovered again. Ashes rarely hold interesting patterns.

That is not all that magic can do.

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10. Demonstration

The kettle sat on the stovetop, giving off the absence of sound that always had seemed somewhat unfair to Enk. At the end of the kettle’s job, it stood up and crowed, and right near the end, there was that rattle and bubble that anticipated the whistle, but nothing anticipated the rattle. It was metal, getting hot, and water also getting hot. Surely, somewhere in Enk’s young mind, he’d reasoned that should make some noise. If he was going to write about it, he’d refer to the ‘creak’ of the metal, or the rattle of it as it settled on the element, but that’d be a lie. Most of his life he’d thought that the kettle should make some more noise than it did, and not once had he ever sat, in such silence, watching it, and realising that it didn’t.

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9. Crafted Soul

When she woke up of the first morning, Barbara had accounted her expression as being just a dream. A few too many videogames, a few too few hours of sleep, and she’d just had a big meal! That sort of thing led to long, heavy sleep, and it wouldn’t be the first time she’d had a strange dream after the family meal. Bacon and poatoes were not the healthiest food in the world. Resolved in her mind, she’d sought to remedy that feeling with a light breakfast of fruit and juice, and relatively few handfuls of marshmallow-laden cereal from the tupperware container.

Relatively few. It wasn’t like she was trying out for pope or anything.

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8. My Name, Eternal

“Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”

The women had chanted those words in these very streets. David was anoited but short years ago, and crowned king only very recently, and yet the legend had already started to swell. Saul had been a good king to start, a decent king then, and finally an ex-king. David… Hah. King David. Hard to forget the image of the man who was king, stripping naked and dancing in rapturous ecstasy towards the face of the Ark of the Covenant. Yet, the people spoke of him as having slain tens of thousands. Saul did not slay thousands, Saul led armies that slew thousands… led armies that refused to slay thousands. David… hah. Like a skein of wool across the racks, the stories of David were growing so tangled and filthy, fetid and ruined. Nobody seemed to know any of the truth of David, but they were so very certain as to what the truth was. Saul was no more, and so now, there was David. David, David, David, the man whose name was chanted and sung. The man who had slain a lion. Slain a bear. Slain a giant!

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7. Zombie Hamsters

The pavement hammered underneath Innogen’s feet as her huge boots clapped onto the concrete, her arms pumping alongside her. And then, at the end of the block, she stopped, turned, and waited for the thirty seconds for her cousin to catch up. And then, they were off again, Innogen picking up the pace, running to the corner, and then waiting again.

“What did you do?” Enk asked, half-yelling.

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6. Number Uncertain

A woman’s figure, clearly, cut from the shadow with an undeniable curve despite what time in gyms and jungles had done to her. Keenly aware of the unfairness of fashion, she walked on flat boots, cargo pants tucked into leather grip. Tank top, over which a flannelette shirt hung, covering her from neck to wrist, with only hands – hidden mostly under fingerless gloves – and throat exposed. Face hidden underneath a bandanna, strangely bright and gaudy considering the dowdy colour scheme she’d selected. A a collage of blue, white and green, the bandanna, with its black base and white skull-jaw design, flashed brightly at the viewer, and further cast in contrast her red eyes. Skin, pale and wan, with the faintest hint of sickly paleness, furthered the comparison to a skull, and those eyes, red as blood, brought with them all the menace one could expect of a one-woman army. Hair that had genetically earned its place on beautiful senoritas who spent their time being kidnapped refused to break its tradition, fulgent and curly, even though it was as shocking white as it could get.

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5. On Becoming

What does it mean to be a witch, or a warlock? A witch is a firestarter – an old term that means the people who play with fire. The witch is dangerous, the witch is clever. The witch takes the thing that nobody else dared to use, and wields it. The witch, in all of histories retellings, is villified as terrible, as ugly, as something that should not be countenanced. And those witches, in history, generation after generation, are all women.

What does it mean, to be a witch?

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4. Forgotten Son

Hot sun beat down on the sands of Moriah. The leather of Jubal’s footbindings, worn smooth by months of walking and wear, felt soft and familiar, each foot leaden and worn like wooden hooves at the end of his legs. Wound strips of finer leather, braided together, ran up in a weave around, holding the goatskins in place. Jubal had become one with the walk; Moriah could be a year away and he would not mind. He had his leathers; he had his daggers; he had his sticks and he had his brothers.

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