Cythera Chronicles: An Exodus

  • Trois leaned wearily on his staff as he watched the line of mages continue by him. He stayed where he was, keeping an eye out for stragglers. As he waited, he mused on how things had come to this.

    All around the line were stationed skilled mages who made sure that none strayed and that no one was left behind. Trois, one of the few master mages, was one of these, and, together with a few others, he kept watch over the last column of mages. He was of average height and wore the customary green robe of a mage. Only his ornate staff served to show his status and that he was recognized as Cythera's foremost healer.

    The mages had never had much of a strictly-defined order until these past few years. Even though they had been subject to suspicion and persecution ever since humans had first entered Cythera, they had come to view these things as natural and bearable...until lately.

    The Tyrant had ramped up persecution against mages to unbearable levels, and the wise among them began to see that the ruler would one day exile them all. Thus, the greatest mages had come together and formed the Council. They began to gather together the mages and to prepare to either fight or flee. They had even begun to send men out to explore Cythera and find a place to make a haven.

    All of their precautions had only made them more suspicious to others, and it had been almost a relief to both sides when the Tyrant finally ordered the mages to leave his lands. At once, they had begun to gather at a camp west of Cademia. They could have gone into the north or south immediately, but they had decided that only the lands over the mountains would offer them haven. As they went, they were careful to leave a magic trail (detectable only be mages) to aid any others who might follow them. Of course, there was a risk in this: the Tyrant might have people able to follow it...

    There hadn't really been much need for humans to explore when they had first entered the land, but, being naturally curious, there had been a few who had, over the years, ventured past the mountains. Still, these had been few and fewer still of them would help the mages.

    Fortunately, a few of their scouts had returned, and some wanderers had offered to aid them...

    Shaking himself out of his reverie, he noticed the line had slowed and motioned one of his assistants over.

    "I'm going forward to confer with the others. Take over here," he stated. The mage nodded, and Trois headed forward.

    At the head of the line, he found the other four masters and Council members talking with each other and one of their guides. As he moved toward them, he considered his companions and what he knew of them.

    The Headmaster was a tall, stern man with silver hair and blue eyes. He hailed from Cademia (like Trois himself) and was rumored to be related to the Tyrant himself. He was widely recognized as the most powerful and wisest of the mages. It had been he who had first realized the need for a Council and preparation for exile.

    Master Cybele was an elderly woman who came from the small hamlet of Odemia. She was perhaps the first alchemist among the mages and without a doubt the greatest. She had been the first to agree with the Headmaster and had first suggested sending out scouts. At the moment, she was trying to convince one of her numerous grandchildren to return to his parents.

    From the land south of Cademia came Master Timon. Perhaps the youngest master, he knew more about runic magic than anyone else alive. He had been the one to most emphatically argue that the mages must cross the mountains if they hoped to find refuge.

    Almost unwillingly, Trois looked at the fourth master. Almost as young as Timon, Rapierian had been one of the first scouts sent out by the masters and had gone south. Then, he had been, handsome and well-liked. When he returned, he had been quite different. Now, his black hair was streaked with gray and his face worn, stretched, and pale. His eyes seemed to have yellowed. He was thin, leaned heavily on his staff, and wore black mage robe. It was rumored that he had family in his native town of Catamarca and perhaps even a son.

    Trois shivered inwardly. In the years since arrival, there had been a few dark mages and all had been dealt with swiftly. Rapierian was not yet known to have crossed that line, and, in any case, they needed him for now as he knew something of the lands to the south. He had been the only scout to return and rarely spoke of his journey to others.

    Turning to the Guide (as he was known), Trois felt little better. The Headmaster said they could trust this man, but many were still reluctant to do so. The man had been known by many names among the populace and was known to have crossed the mountains several times. The Guide was as tall as the Headmaster but thinner and paler. He always wore a black cloak and hood that overshadowed much of the upper part of his face. At his side, he wore a sword.

    Currently, he was pointing at the entrance to a narrow canyon and saying, "That is the safest and quickest route through the mountains."

    "That's a box canyon and everyone knows it," Timon argued. "If we go in there, we will be trapped. We should go south and—"

    "Face the harpies?" Rapierian finished in a mocking voice. "Haven't I told you that would be most unwise? You might know nothing of such creatures, but I, on the other hand..." His voice trailed off into unpleasant laughter.

    "Enough, you two," Cybele commanded sternly. She turned to the Guide. "Are you sure that this is the best way?"

    "There is a way through this canyon," he insisted. "Around north, you have to hug the coast to cross. There you would have face the scylla. You could go south, but you would find harpies when you rounded the mountains. Harpies may attack us on our route, but scylla and polyps will not. The wilderness is also less dense here. This is the best way."

    "I agree," Trois said, joining the conversation.

    The Headmaster nodded.

    "We'll do it," he stated in a tone of finality.

    The line pushed on through the gap. In these days, much of Cythera to the west was wilderness and it was slow-going for the band of mages. The walls of the canyon towered up over their heads.

    At last, after over a day, they reached the end of the box canyon. The wall was sheer, and the plants grew thick around it.

    Calmly, the Guide stepped forward and walked through the wall as if it did not exist. There were gasps of surprise and dismay, but he returned in a moment.

    He gestured at the wall.

    "It is an illusion," he stated.

    "Made by whom?" someone demanded suspiciously.

    "I would guess the Metics," the other answered. "This is, in truth, a natural passage through the mountains."

    Some snorted at this. Rumors of such beings that had been seen soon after the humans first arrived an occasionally since then were to them just that: nothing but rumors. Most of the mages were of the opinion that the first arrivals had placed this here in case it was needed. In later years, the illusion would be removed and the pass left open.

    It would take the mages almost a week to reach the coast their guides told them. They were almost half way there when it happened.

    Every night, most of the mages pitched their tents close together with a ring of guards around them all. Both Rapierian and the Guide had insisted this be done and that Rally be kept on all people at all times.

    Trois was leaning back against a tree, watching a couple of younger mages playing cards when an eerie screech rent the night air.

    "Harpies!" Rapierian's angry cry carried over the camp.

    Seeing movement just beyond the firelight, Trois flung a lightning bolt at it, and, for a moment, the night was illuminated, giving him a clear view of dozens of harpies.

    One faced him and screeched again, and he felt something press on his mind. For a moment, an unreasoning terror threatened to master him, but his Rally spell proved the stronger.

    Out of the corner of his eye, He had a glimpse of Rapierian as the other melted a harpy with a fireball. As he did so, he had a manic smile on his face. Near him, the Guide drew his blade and began to cut his way through the harpies.

    The night was lit up as more mages awoke and began to hurl fireballs and such at their attackers. The harpies were unused to such a large group of people and to such a concentrated magic attack. Despite their superior numbers, they soon fell back in surprise and dismay.

    At the time, almost no one there knew what this portended. In future, the harpies would be driven so far south that they would never again threaten this future-road.

    At last, they reached the coast. Although they were almost even with Cademia, they decided that this was the best place to settle. It sat near a powerful nexus of energies, and they planned to make the wilderness around it impassable to any non-mages or to people who didn't know where the city was.

    As they pitched their tents once more (a safe distance from the sea), the Council met to discuss matters.

    "I think it is a good location," Cybele said, "but a guard should placed near the pass to keep an eye out for any incursions."

    "I agree," Timon stated, and the rest did as well.

    They talked for quite some time, planning how to build the city and to protect it.

    At last, Rapierian spoke up, "That leaves one more thing: what about you?" He asked, turning to the Guide who sat unnoticed in a corner.

    "I will stay and help for a time," he replied, rising, "but I will move on in a while."

    "And how do we know we can trust you?" Rapierian returned. "You might be captured and made to tell."

    "I assure you, young man, I can handle myself."

    The Headmaster raised his hand, "Stop this, Rapierian, we agreed when we started that we would not keep the Guide. Let him go; he will not give us away."

    Hours later, after the meeting had broken up and all had gone to sleep, the Guide stood on a hill facing the water.

    He pondered recent events. All in all, he had succeeded: the mages had survived and he believed that that would be key to Cythera's future. After staring at the water for a time, Selax nodded and started back down the hill...

  • Nice! I like it!

    This Chron was a pleasure to read. However, it felt a bit rushed in places.
    Also: "a magic trail (detectable only be mages) to aid any others" That parenthetical distracts from the flow of the story, partly due to the typo. I can't think of any better wording though.

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