Science and Sorcery–Prologue

21 Sep

Prologue

Awareness came back slowly, in fits and starts.

He was underwater. Of course he was underwater. Enchanter had taken him to where Great Atlantis had sunk, shortly after the war had been won, and placed him under the waves, right outside the tomb. And then…?

My name is Golem, he thought, as another fragment of memory returned. Enchanter, the greatest magician ever to walk the planet, had created him from mud and stone, imbuing raw material with the raw fabric of life itself. The magician had spent freely of his mana and knowledge to create Golem, calling him the greatest accomplishment of five hundred years of magical research. Golem the Guardian, he’d said, although none other than Golem himself had known what he was to guard. The Enchanter had known that it was sometimes better to let people keep their illusions.

“You will not live where there is no mana,” the Enchanter had said. Back then, it hadn’t seemed like a real possibility. But Enchanter had known the terrible price civilisation was about to pay for defeating the Thirteen, if such powerful magicians could ever be defeated. “When mana returns to the world, you will be alive again. And thanks to what I paid to create you, even a low-level mana field will suffice.”

Golem opened his eyes and looked around. Atlantis had once been the greatest city in the world, until it had been destroyed in the war. Now, deep underwater, the ruins of the city were home to living creatures, none of them human. The remains of the population had rotted away long ago, those who hadn’t been consumed by the Thirteen. Even his eyes, perfectly adapted to underwater conditions, could see nothing beyond the remains of the once-great temples and fortresses. Carefully, Golem took a step forward and then another, unable to escape the sensation that he was walking across a tomb. How long had it been since the mana had faded away?

But the mana is back, he thought, as he crossed what had once been unbreakable walls, formed and held in place by the massed will of the Council of Wizards. If it were not back, I would not be alive.

The Enchanter had created and taught him when mana was plentiful and student magicians had no need to limit their consumption, just to conserve their power. Now, Golem discovered that most of the spells he knew simply refused to work. He could still feel the faint trickle of mana flooding through the water, spreading through the world itself, but there wasn’t enough to do more than maintain his life. But there would be enough soon, he knew. He could feel it in his clay bones.

There was no point in trying to swim, so he walked forward, knowing that he would encounter a landmass eventually. Or the mana would rise to the point where he could use it to fly up, out of the water, or simply teleport back to Enchanter’s fortress. Time passed – days, weeks, months – until he finally reached a coastline. Bidding a silent farewell to the fish that had followed him on his walk, he strode out of the water and onto the shore. High overhead, the moon peered down as it had done for centuries. And there were strange lights in the sky.

Golem’s eyes had no difficulty in picking out stars he’d known in his youth, before Enchanter had buried him under the waves, but the constellations were so different. Once, astronomers had charted the skies and astrologers had used them to read the future. Now…Golem knew enough about the slow passage of the stars to realise that thousands of years, perhaps longer, had passed since the death of magic, since he had gone to sleep. It was quite possible that no one even remembered Enchanter and his greatest creation. Golem looked down at the sand and then back up at the stars, knowing himself to be the loneliest being in the world. All of the people he’d known would be less than dust by now.

And if they had forgotten Enchanter, had they also forgotten his enemies?

The mana was back. How long would it be before the Thirteen were unleashed once again?

You know your duty, Enchanter’s voice seemed to echo out of time. I created you to save the world.

Golem took one last look at the stars and stepped forward, heading towards the lights in the distance that suggested a human town, or city. There would be answers there about this strange new world, and about the early impact of mana. And then he would seek allies who could help him to complete his mission. The Thirteen had to be stopped.

Or the entire world would be trapped in a nightmare without end.

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