The Tas'akram - a short story - Printable Version

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The Tas'akram - a short story - Totum - 04-05-2020

497th day of Cryos, 266 ACE

Shen Zhengyi was in a panic.
Vantian artillery thundered in the distance. Shen citizens were streaming out of their homes, trying to hold on to what little they possessed as they fled the doomed city. All they could do was run and hope that what lie ahead was better than what they were leaving behind.
Qi’ra, the local guild master of a small group of arcanists learned in the art of channeling chaotic and untamed magiks, was being escorted by guards of the Archmage Li-Fang Shen of Port Qi’Shen. As citizens poured into the city square, holding what little they could hold or nothing at all, Qi’ra could only take solace in the fact that there was still a shred of hope the last defenders could hold the line at Qi’Shen… lest they invoke the artifact.
The group pressed forward. Guards barked to the chaotic crowd: “Move, on orders from the Archmage! MOVE!!!”
Qi’ra and a few of her close advisors whispered beneath the din: “Will this really work?” “Will the spell be strong enough to channel the raw power in that artifact?”
They were now almost to the docks when Qi’ra suddenly screamed. “Incoming!” she screamed as a Vantian projectile exploded in the market square. Smoke and flames rose from the site, as market stalls older than the Archmage herself were lost to the indiscriminate destruction. One of the guards in their group cried out “GET TO THE SHIP! NOW!” as more debris began to rain down as the upper city’s tower began to crumble. “MORE INCOMING!” shouted the guard as the entourage quickly boarded a small Shen skiff. As it began magically cutting ties with the shore, the entire Shen Zhengyi tower, once the proud capital building that the Archmage had lived in for centuries, started to collapse. As the remnants of the enigmatic and enchanted tower crashed into the market and the sea behind them, the skiff was quickly moving towards Port Qi’Shen, as they raced south through the northern Shen archipelago.
Qi’ra laid out ancient weapon blueprints on a small table. It described an object spherical in nature that was pulsing with energy. She announced: “The spells known to us won’t be sufficient to make this thing go critical.” After a pause, she resumed: “The Archmage has libraries of more powerful spells, but we won’t know what they are until it is time.” One advisor looked visually uncomfortable. “What will this thing do?” he said. “How will we know what spell to use when nothing like this has ever been done before?” Qi’ra looked down at her long, flowing arcanist robes and said: “We don’t. We have to have hope.”
The gates of the port were visible now. After some discussion, Qi’ra thought it best to listen to the words of the Archmage. Looking back, Shen Zhengyi, far on the horizon, was in consumed by flames. As for the garrison… well, nothing was safe from a goldblade. Qi’ra could only imagine the horrors the barbarians were inflicting on her brethren.
As the skiff docked in the Port, the royal entourage was waiting for them at the docks. The Archmage, with a creased brow, was known for maintaining composure even as report after report came in about the Vantian victories. “I see you made it out safely, Qi’ra.” The ground trembled was heard in the distance. “I am most indebted to you, Archmage, for facilitating my escape.” Qi’ra replied. The group started to the Catacombs, the location of the oldest and most guarded archives. The Archmage tread lightly on the Qi’Shen market square and spoke: “There are many concentrated and powerful spells you may choose from. Hopefully, a few should suit the blueprints.” Qi’ra nodded and replied: “We shall pick the one that will ensure the future of the Shen. We will triumph.”
The Catacombs felt charged with a magical air as the group walked in. Guards quickly escorted them to a door in the main hall, leading to a small antechamber. Qi’ra set down the blueprints on a gigantic table and looked around the room. “I will be in my quarters, overseeing the construction of the weapon, should you need me” the Archmage said as she walked out.
Days passed. Qi’ra and her few advisors poured over magical texts, comparing them to the blueprints and endless notes that lay strewn around the room. Ever more worrying reports came in about the Vantians and their approach to the city. Trembles started to become a part of everyday life as thunder from Shen arcanists and Vantian artillery shook the ground. By the day the Vantians launched their final invasion, only a few spells were deemed powerful enough to be selected. All of them were previously written away as “dangerous” by previous arcanists.
Qi’ra burst into the war room as the Archmage was discussing the minute details of the last stand of the Shen. “I have the final list of potential spells.” Qi’ra laid out the scroll with a list of spells and their incantations. “What are these?” the Archmage screamed. “These will destroy our homeland!” Qi’ra took a step back and reiterated: “We must do what must be done for our people.” The Archmage studied the scroll. She stepped back and walked over to the window, where rows of Vantian tents stood one island away from their own. “Tainted Mother bless us all.” “Pardon?” Qi’ra said. “Carry out what must be done.” replied the Archmage with a solemn tone.
Qi’ra and four other high arcanists stood in the middle level of the great Qi’Shen gate with the weapon, a pulsing orb surrounded by a sphere made up of outlined hexagons. Vantian ships loomed, with mobs of heathen on them, goldblades glinting in the morning sun. Qi’ra looked out over the city and the archipelago for possibly the last time.
The incantation began, as the arcanists focused their latent magiks into the frame of the weapon. The orb inside began to spark and spin as words were fed into it. As the orb started to show signs of criticality, Qi’ra quickly swung the focusing mirrors up and around the weapon and pushed the entire contraption forward, to the window overlooking the Vantians. Moments before the orb was unleashed, the Vantian fleet caught on to the purpose of the orb and the spellcasters and began to fire on the gate. But it was too late. All at once, a beam of chaos let forth from the orb focused directly on the advancing fleet, obliterating it. Arcane particles charged the air and began interacting with everything around. All Qi’ra saw, however, was a flash of light, then only darkness.