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December 8, 2018

45. The Cloud is a Door

The two magicians dueled. Lightning flashed from above as their wands crashed together. Their tongues moved in asynchronous harmony with verbal spells on end. One wore a dull red cowl and the other wore armbands of some social relevance.

A thundercharge hit the wizard with the red cowl. It brought him to a knee and he tucked his wand down his boot. He turned a sly grin and held his hands out. “You win, Perseus. The game is yours,” the red cowl ceded.

The man with the armbands slowly and confidently holstered his wand and approached the other wizard. “I’m not here to win. These aren’t games, Cyrus. These are rules from the Order. Your crimes supersede current rules and a new body has decided your fate. I am only here to follow through with my own commands.”

A new host of wizards rode clouds on the backs of horses with wings. They all bore the same armbands, a few with distinct patterns and colors to identify a minuscule rank.One of the new arrivals dismounted his horse and laid a hand on the shoulder of Theseus, “Sorry we are late. Excellent work here, however. We will take it from here. Lydia demands new punishments.”

“So I’ve heard,” Perseus said with a tone of exasperation.

By this time a set of men had the red cowled man, Cyrus, was on both knees and his head was forced up, neck exposed. A man held his head and another forced his wand in Cyrus’ mouth in a punishment of tongue removal. 

The Order deemed this an appropriate punishment to limit spoken spells. Let the criminal live but let them suffer through the removal of magical exercise. Cyrus was accused, convicted, and a fugitive from the Order. His punishment was to be exacted the moment he was obtained. And so it was.

His face was gray and his eyes were sullen and deep. Within moments he aged a decade at the pain and loss of his tongue. Yet Cyrus smirked to himself. His hands were bound in front of himself but his plan was set.

The footsolders that had obtained him now boarded him on a nearby incarceration carriage. He stepped in obediently. The craft itself was guarded on its four sides. Within the carriage he was alone. On his rump, his hands still locked, he lifted his foot up and reached down. There in his boot was his wand: useless without words, yet it was now in his hand. One of the armbanded wizards patted the top of the carriage as a sign and it lifted itself among the posted valets. The company and their convict flashed into the clouds and onward.

Within his imprisoned ferry Cyrus took the wand to his mouth and crunched hard on the magical wooden wand. It splintered and cut his mouth. Without a tongue, he gagged it down. After several bites he was finished and despite his pain he smiled now.

A wizard devouring his own wand is a sour move of dark magic that yields evil. It is an omen of magic above magician, wizardry above wizard: putting humankind below one’s skill and intent above one’s duty.

Cyrus opened his mouth and his new, wand-tongue forked out and tasted air. He spoke a new language and thundercharged the flying carriage. The clouds bent to his will and lightning smoothly gripped the four wizards on horseback flying among the carriage. They were stuck and fell like flies from the clouds into the darkness below. Cyrus then found Perseus back on the ground, at their initial duel spot.

“Cyrus, I did not expect you to return,” Perseus said casually.

Cyrus fly by his own magic will downward and landed deftly near Perseus. “You are only doing your job, Perseus. I cannot blame you for anything.”

Perseus can only drop his jaw in disbelief. Moments ago Cyrus had his tongue removed and here, now, he speaks. Cyrus walked closer. Perseus straightened and stood upright, gathering himself in confidence and understanding.

“Cyrus, you have eaten your wand and sealed your fate,” Perseus said. “You have forced my hand today in what I never thought possible.” Perseus held his wand up casually and gave it a little wave. He mumbled to himself and a gray cloud of smoke grew from the end of his wand and outward, into a tall and wide wall that was in thin and otherwise nebulous. As it grew it agitated and shook.

Cyrus’s eyes widened. He knew his power—his sacrifice—but he knew his limitations. And he knew this cloud. The wall began to spark with electrostatic of florescent blues that gave it an aggressive appearance.

Perseus cut a glance at Cyrus and nodded. Both men knew the gravitas of the wall, the weight of the thundercloud there before them. With another simple gesture Perseus motioned to the wall and it opened, like a tear in a gray velvet curtain. Within was dark and blurred but both men stepped together, confidently within the cloud as blue lightning wildly flashed about. The cyan and irredescent glow grew brighter while the gray cloud shrank dramatically and finally closed into nothingness. A final burst of electric lightning snapped and the door was closed.