Dear Readers, Just for you ….I will give you an insight into a complete Chapter One of The Black Crystal
The young mage stumbled along scraggy pathway as it veered sharply towards the right. He brushed swiftly past a number of thickly thorned bushes as their savage design ripped into his clothes, drawing blood across the skin of his thighs. A high pitched shriek directly behind him signalled that the creature was close. He leapt past an old log that lay strewn across the pathway, almost losing his footing in the darkness as he scattered twigs and dirt as his feet skidded across the dried mud encrusted path.
His long, athletic legs moved swiftly, his breaths shallow and laboured as his lungs fought for air. He was not sure from where he had inherited his athletic abilities, as he had been raised an orphan, but they had so far saved his life. But he was tiring now. He knew that it would not be long before he must call upon the second gift of unknown birth afforded to him; his ability to use magic.
He silently cursed himself for being so foolish. It was due to his stupidity that he found himself in his current predicament. Just a two days ago, he had received his initial training from his Master of Spellcraft, to learn how to conjure forth spirits. But in his impatience to trial his newly gained skills on his own, he had forgotten to draw the glyph of entrapment that would keep the creature that held the creature caged and thus exposed himself to a terrible danger. As the creature sensed an opportunity to attack, in surprise, he had stepped outside of his protective pentagram, removing the very last vestige of protection that was available to him as the creature, which turned out to be a wraith, moved rapidly moved towards him.
The wraith was almost upon him, when he turned and ran towards the forest, swiftly losing sight of the pathway that he had used travel to the forest clearing. For a moment, the creature’s shrieks sounded more distant, signalling that it had momentarily lost sight of him, but his hopes were soon dashed when a second, much louder shriek indicated that it had found his trail once again. It was much quicker and more agile than him and he knew that he did not have long before it found him.
He continued to run, leaping past jagged grey rocks and plants that were nestled beneath the pitch-black canopy of forest that hid the blackened sky above, as his body soon became soaked in a cold sweat of fear. His eyes frantically searched ahead of him, trying to pick out any glimpse of light that would signal that he was close to the village where his SpellMaster slept, who was currently blissfully unaware of the terrible danger that he had placed himself. Harapin would be furious to learn that he had attempted to use a spell of Conjuring on his own, but he was the only person who could save him now.
“Creator’s Breath!” the young man cursed as his voice cracked in terror.
He was alone.
There were no lights ahead of him and there was no sign of the village or pathway that led to it. What was he thinking? Even if he reached the village alive, what would would he unleash upon it? How many people would die before Harapin would be able to stop it and then what would happen to him as a result of his stupidy? His mind raced. If he could only find a way to protect himself, if even for a brief time, then he stood a chance.
It was then that he remembered that towards the outskirts of the old cobbled road that led towards the village, that he and Hesparin had recently drawn a large pentagram into the grassland with salt. Although the drawing was not as inherently strong, as a stiff breeze would soon disperse it, if it still existed, he could enter it and remain safe.
He burst through the thick veil of bushes ahead of him and found himself in the open. Swiftly scanning his surroundings, he realised to his immense relief that he was only a short distance away now from where the pentagrams had been drawn. Almost whimpering with relief, he stumbled towards it general direction.
Then he saw it, the faint magical glow of a pentagram that still thrummed with magic, but at that very moment, the creature burst from out of the depths of the forest, its darkened cowl swiftly turning towards him as it caught sight of him as he gasped at it in horror.
Within moments the creature was upon him as he felt its shadowy claws rip through his clothing, reaching the skin of his right shoulder. He felt his heart shudder as he stumbled backwards, with a hideous cold sensation that made his body suddenly feel both cold and wet. Again the creature came, searing through the flesh and spirit of his body as the young man cried with terror.
But suddenly, the attacks stopped.
The creature remained motionless, its black cowl that covered its face shaking in anger as it clawed at the air, seemingly prevented from moving any further by an invisible barrier. The young mage realised that he had somehow managed to stumble inside the pentagram, its blessed glow now shining as brightly as a midnight star as the young, terrified mage lay sprawled inside it.
Standing at over eight feet in height, the dark shadow of the creature loomed over him, separated only by the invisible sphere of magic that now protected the young mage, as it began to shriek in rage at being prevented from reaching its prey.
“You vermin!” snarled the young man, his fear suddenly dissipating.
“And you’re a fool,” responded a deeper timbered voice of a much older man that he immediately recognised as belonging to his SpellMaster. The young mage turned to find the disapproving light grey eyes of his mentor, Harapin, that were narrowed at him with an expression of disapproval. Harapin;s iron-grey hair looked unkempt, and his robes looked dishevelled, indicating that he had awoken and quickly dressed himself.
“What can we–,” began the young mage only to have his sentence cut short by a dismissive wave of Harapin’s arm.
“I shall trap it and you shall then dismiss it,” Harapin snapped at him, clearly in no mood to talk further.
The wraith watched the arrival of the new human with uncertainty, clearly unsettled by his apparent lack of fear.
Harapin, reached into a pale brown leather pouch that was attached to his belt and withdrew a handful of white granules. He swiftly moved his forefinger and thumb together to create a small opening from which the salt could fall, as he drew the image of a glyph upon the earth that would cause creature to become entrapped inside it. When he had finished, he looked up sharply at the young mage and gestured towards the pentagram, “Command it to move inside.”
“But what if-,” the young man began to speak.
“Just do it!” Harapin snapped at him in irritation.
The young mage felt his face flush crimson with embarrassment, “Reverto Tutitis,” he commanded as he pointed the wraith towards the glyph that now glowed brightly against the darkened sky.
The wraith screamed.
It made a noise that he had not heard before. It was a pitiful sound as its, dark, wispy form was seemly dragged by an invisible force inside glyph. Within moments, it was trapped inside as its hideous form twisted and writhed in an effort to escape its imprisonment.
“Now you can choose to send it back to the Netherworld or to destroy it completely,” Harapin remarked calmly.
“I can—kill it?”
Harapin nodded briefly, “You can end its existence forever if that is what you so choose. However, it being called here was not its fault, but yours.”
“Would it not be more merciful to kill it?”
“That depends on what you believe. If you believe that it should continue to exist as it came here through no fault of its own, then you should let it return to the Netherworld unharmed. However, if you consider it to be a greater threat to the living, where another mage could call upon it to do their evil bidding, then you should destroy it.”
There was a long silence that passed between them as the two men stared at one another. The young man frowned deeply as he rubbed his shoulder that still pained him. The memory of the creature’s claws ripping inside his spirit made and the red burns upon his flesh made up his mind. Letting it exist, posed a greater threat.
“I shall destroy it,” he replied.
Harapin nodded at him non-committally, “I will need to prepare the ground before we begin the ceremony,” he removed the leather pouch that held the remainder of the salt and traced another image upon the earth “and after this is done, you and I need will need to talk.”
The young mage nodded at him in embarrassment as a shaft of moonlight peeked out from behind the darkened clouds above, revealing the sharp features of Harapin as his light grey eyes stared at the young man with an intensity that made him feel uncomfortable.
“I realize that what I did was wrong,” the young mage stated meekly.
“Yes it was,” Harapin agreed as he swiftly moved away.
“How was it that you awoke and not the others inside the village?” the young mage asked him, keen to change the subject.
“Because I possess superb hearing,” Harapin replied sarcastically as he pointed toward the mage’s ring on his finger. The ring of bonding. It was given by each of the SpellMasters to each of their pupils, to ensure that a basic line of communication remained between them, should the need arise.
Moments later, Harapin was ready.
A diamond jewel, almost the size of a man’s fist lay inside another pentagram traced in salt, close to the glyph that held the creature entrapped. The creature was now still but its cowled head seemed to follow every movement of Harapin. Suddenly, it lifted its head towards the dark skies above and wailed.
It was a pitiful sound that it immediately filled them both with a deep sense of dread as they realised now with a chilling certainty that the creature understand what was about to happen to it.
A number of windows suddenly lit in the distance, indicating that some of the nearby villagers had been awoken by the terrifying sound. Dark shapes appeared briefly at the windows, as its previously sleepy occupants attempted to identify the source of the hideous noise.
“Quickly now,” Harapin barked at him, “we must get rid of this spirit before the villagers realise that we have brought danger to their doors!”
“Reverto Claustrum”, the young mage commanded, pointing the wraith towards the clear white diamond that lay sparkling inside the glowing glyph, as if it was an enormous raindrop that lay frozen upon the ground.
A flash of bright light swiftly followed and the wraith was no more. Instead, the crystal remained upon the ground, but it was no longer clear, but now coloured as dark as night. With the heel of his boot, Harapin quickly smashed the crystal, splintering it into a thousand pieces as the spirit inside was destroyed for all eternity.
Harapin swiftly scattered the image of the glyphs within the grasses with the toe of his boot, scattering the salt into the dark grasses and hiding the last vestiges of proof that anything had occurred as their forms were broken the magical glow of magic was suddenly dissipated. Harapin then suddenly then grabbed hold of the surprised young man’s collar and shoved him towards the direction of the village.
Before long, they had reached the village and entered the small, white stoned cottage that stood towards the Eastern edge of the village that they had been using while the young mage had been receiving his training. Inside, the long tapers flickered, sending the shadows wavering along the wallpapered walls that were festooned with images of red and pink roses, as the warmth of the hearth greeted them.
Harapin moved towards an old oak table that held a silvered jug of water and two silver cups as he poured himself a cup, gesturing towards him to enquire if he also wanted to partake of the water. The young mage nodded at him eagerly, suddenly aware that his throat felt terribly dry.
“You must always follow my instruction without question Alexon,” Harapin admonished him, in between mouthfuls of water as he swiftly emptied his cup then poured himself another.
Outside the hoot of an owl signalled that the creatures of the night knew that the danger had passed. Inside the cottage there was an uncomfortable silence as Alexon waited to hear what his punishment would be. Harapin’s gaze remained fixed upon him, his eyes burning an intensity that showed his anger, “I lost an apprentice once, to fire magic. He couldn’t control it and he burned to death.”
“I had to scrape up what was left of the body with a shovel,” Harapin continued almost conversationally as his gaze remained fixed upon that of the young mage, “and let me tell you, magical fire burns with such an intenstity there wasn’t much shovelling required.”
Alexon breathed in sharply, “I won’t disobey you again.”
Flickering shadows danced across the walls, as if they had been lent life by the flames of the hearth. Harapin sighed deeply as he moved towards one of the comfortable armchairs that stood close to the fireplace and slumped himself down, seemingly exhausted as he finally looked away.
Alexon set down his empty cup upon the table. His shoulder still burned where the creature’s claws had touched him, but he daren’t show his discomfort. Mumbling his apologies as he felt his eyelids turn heavy, he quickly retired to his room. Sleep was what he needed now. He knew that he had never been closer to death than he had been that night and he made an oath to himself that he would never let such a thing happen again.
As the few village lights that had been lit went out and peace settled upon the village of Elderast once more, a lone figure stood upon the edges of village, staring towards the small white cottage where the two mages dwelt. Somewhere a dog whimpered, sensing something indescribably evil as it quickly scampered away in fear into the darkness. The figure remained motionless for a time, pondering its next move. After a long pause, it slowly turned and headed back inside the forest. The owl had become silent once more.