Chapter 5:

A Dangerous Mage

The Cat-Eared Historian Mage on the Crumbling Planet

Shortly after Ashtin teleported to Settlement 266, Basttias made his way to the top floor of the mages' guild and walked towards the counseling wing. Finding an empty room in the middle of the hallway, he entered, closing the door behind him, and reclined on the sofa inside. A few minutes later, with two sharp knocks on the door, a gynoid entered and locked the door behind her.Bookmark here

“Basttias, how unexpected,” she said, tilting her head. “You had counseling just a few days ago. Is something bothering you?”Bookmark here

“Ashtin’s staff,” Basttias said as the gynoid sat down at a small desk close to the sofa.Bookmark here

“It frightens you?” the gynoid inferred.Bookmark here

“No,” Basttias said. “Well, maybe a little, but mostly, I’m jealous.”Bookmark here

“That is understandable,” the gynoid told him. “It makes casting magic easier, and it amplifies his abilities, but even with the staff, his magical output does not rival yours. You have no reason to be jealous.”Bookmark here

“That’s not it,” Basttias said. “I… I want to be able to explore my magic too. Just a little bit, in a controlled way, like Ashtin did, but my proposals have all been denied. It makes me feel like you trust Ashtin more than you trust me, and that’s what I’m jealous of.”Bookmark here

“Basttias,” the gynoid said, “what I am about to tell you must never leave this room.”Bookmark here

“Understood,” Basttias said, and he began casting privacy spells around the room. Every mage had a different way of casting spells. Ashtin liked to wave his hands around, but Basttias placed his index fingers on his temples and visualized the spells in his mind. These actions weren’t strictly required to cast spells. They were habits that mages had trouble breaking.Bookmark here

“More,” the gynoid urged him as she sensed Basttias was about to finish. “Secrecy is of paramount importance.” When she was satisfied that no one would overhear them, she said, “We trust you just as much as we trust Ashtin, and depending on how things go with him, we may allow you to conduct similar experiments. We started with him because his magic is weak. If things went horribly wrong, we were confident that we could terminate him.”Bookmark here

“I don’t understand,” Basttias said. “You started with him? Started what? Why would you risk the life of a historian mage?”Bookmark here

“Because using any other mage is too risky,” the gynoid said. “You have seen what happens to mages who are driven mad by their own magic. They lose themselves to it, but not completely. If a historian mage ended up in that state, we would have a good chance of getting through to them, and in the worst case, convincing them to destroy themselves for the greater good.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t answer my question,” Basttias said. “Why take the risk in the first place?”Bookmark here

“We have no choice,” the gynoid replied. “Few outside the council know this, but we have a means of faster-than-light communication with every other settled planet. A few months ago, we lost contact with one of them. Two weeks after that, another planet fell silent after transmitting two words: dangerous mage.”Bookmark here

“Are you trying to tell me a mage traveled between planets? They destroyed these planets?”Bookmark here

“It has happened before, long ago. If you wish to know the details, I will tell you, but it will place a heavy mental burden on you.”Bookmark here

“This is already a lot to think about,” Basttias muttered. “Even if every mage on the planet worked together, it would take us hours to destroy a planet, and we’d need the council’s assistance to manage the spell.”Bookmark here

“We do not wish to destroy,” the gynoid said, “only to protect, but to do so, we need a mage powerful enough to match this dangerous mage. One we can control.”Bookmark here

“And you plan on making Ashtin this mage?”Bookmark here

“No,” the gynoid shook her head. “Even if Ashtin took full control of his magic, he would not be powerful enough to teleport between planets. However, he may be able to perceive the galaxy and locate the dangerous mage. He may give us the intelligence we need, and he may point the way to safely allow a more powerful mage to claim their full magic.”Bookmark here

“Or, more likely, he’ll go mad in the attempt.”Bookmark here

“He is aware of that possibility,” the gynoid said, “as are the other historian mages, on this planet and others, who have begun the process of guided exploration of their magic.”Bookmark here

“But does he know about this dangerous mage?” Basttias asked.Bookmark here

“We told him that we needed stronger historian mages,” the gynoid said. “He declined further explanation, but we will have to tell him if he progresses further.”Bookmark here

“Something doesn’t add up,” Basttias observed. He took a moment to collect his thoughts and then asked, “Why send him on an assignment? Shouldn’t he be focusing on his magic?”Bookmark here

“The situation in Settlement 266 is a serious problem, assuming this planet is not destroyed, and Ashtin really is the best fit for the job. We also determined that a short break to interact with the outside world will strengthen his mental fortitude.”Bookmark here

“But every delay is—”Bookmark here

“We cannot rush the process,” the gynoid interrupted. “We must optimize for the highest chances of success. There are close to a million settled worlds. At the rate they’re going, it will take millenia for this dangerous mage to destroy them all, but if we’re not careful, we could end up creating more dangerous mages.”Bookmark here

“You’re right,” Basttias sighed. “It’s just frightening to think that we could be destroyed at any time without warning.”Bookmark here

“This is why we do not burden people with this information unnecessarily,” The gynoid said. “We will be counting on you in the future, Basttias.”Bookmark here

“I understand,” he replied. “Thank you. You have resolved my jealousy issues. Perhaps we can work on my newfound anxiety next.”Bookmark here

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