[_“GOOD MORNING,” SAYS THE elderly woman as she steps into our home. _]
My great-uncle closes the door behind her. “Thank you for coming on such short notice, Hero Gwen. I am so sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to send for, or what else to do.” His bad back means he has to shuffle his feet as he leads her through the parlor, where I sit, hands clasped in my lap on the couch.
[_“Oh, don’t worry, my good man. I am happy to help.” She turns her head toward the dining room, where the furniture gently floats through the air, surrounded by a blue glow. She chuckles. “Oh, my, it seems she caused quite the ruckus.” She turns to my great-uncle again: “If I understand correctly, this was your little girl’s doing?” _]
He nods, a slight frown on his face as he undoubtedly debates correcting her. I’m not his little girl, just an extended relative who happens to live with him. “She merely looked at the dinner table and it began to float, as did all the chairs around it,” he says. “I asked her to get them back down, but she says she doesn’t know how.”
[_Gwen laughs aloud. “She reminds me so much of myself when I first discovered my gift. You need not worry though, it’s only a harmless enchantment.” She sets her walking stick against the door. “You do not happen to own any Enchanted Books, do you?” she asks. _]
[_He shakes his head. “I have no knowledge of the arcane arts. That’s why I figured it’d be best to ask you for help.” _]
[_“I see . . . In that case, consider me impressed. It means the girl managed to accidentally cast a Feather Falling enchantment. Hold on, this should take but a moment.” A quick gesture of her hand, and the blue glow subsides as the table and chairs neatly return to where they’re supposed to be. It’s as if none of it ever happened. One of the chairs seems slightly out of place, but the mage throws a stern look and it shoves in line with the others. “Your daughter has a gift,” she says, turning to my great-uncle. “And a strong one, at that. She will need training if she is to control it.” She leans toward me. “Tell me, young girl, what is your name?” _]
I gulp and stutter: “M-Meta, ma’am.” I don’t have the courage to add that the man isn’t my father.
[_She smiles. “Nice to meet you, Meta. My name is Gwen. Do you know who I am?” _]
[_The most powerful enchantress in the land, according to my great-uncle. “Yes,” I tell her. _]
[_She nods. “Then I’ll spare you the boring formalities of an introduction. Tell me, Meta, did you make the furniture float? Be honest with me, I won’t get mad at you if you did.” I nod, and she smiles again. She seems very kind. “You have a talent, Meta. Magic runs through you, like blood through your veins. That means you are able to use it if you know how.” _]
[_Gwen’s smile fades as she straightens her back and turns to my great-uncle. “Magic and emotion go hand in hand. It might become a real problem if she hasn’t learned to control it before she comes of age.” _]
[_My great-uncle looks worried. “What are you saying?” he asks her. _]
“I am saying that if she ever loses control of her emotions, she might also lose control of her magic. That will be dangerous for her and everyone nearby.”
[_He thinks about what she just said for a moment. “Well . . . she had a bit of a tantrum earlier. That was when my furniture started levitating,” he says. “What should I do?” _]
Gwen looks thoughtful. “If you’ll allow it, she can come live with me in my home. I could teach her to control her gift. I’d love to guide one last student. Especially someone like her.”
MY EYES OPEN AND I sit upright. It was a dream . . . no, a memory. I sit up and look around, my surroundings now are quite different than they were back then. My great-uncle lived in the village of Crystal Hollow, but now I live far to the north at the village of Victon. From my place at the trunk of a shady oak, I can just see the edge of the village through the trees.
I look down at the spell book in my lap. Gwen was my first teacher and I miss her dearly. She taught me the basics of enchanting. She often took me to forests just like this one in order to train my attunement to the elements.
Her teaching method was simple, but effective: improvement through trial. She could go on and on about how the rocks that roll down a mountain eventually end up as small grains of sand. Or how coal when treated with pressure and heat will eventually become diamond. She kept saying that I’d never know how strong I was unless I was truly tested.
The energy of environments like this forest provided me with a natural element for training. That being said, all we really ever went over were light and dark. From a clearing in the forest, where sunlight could easily touch the forest floor, to old mines, where it never reached.
I couldn’t stay with her forever though. Not long ago, she decided she was getting too old to teach, and she sent me to my second mentor, Alfred, who is more theoretical. He has me study Enchanted Books for hours on end in his library, questioning me afterward about what I’ve read. Oh, the many lectures I’ve received when I get something wrong or I give an incomplete answer! “This is important, Meta. You should know this by now, Meta. I’ve explained this already, Meta.”
Don’t get me wrong, Alfred might be stern, but he’s an excellent teacher. I know so many enchantments by heart now, I don’t even need the books to cast them anymore. And he taught me many practical spells, like healing magic. Too bad he doesn’t really let me practice magic. I barely even get to go outside, unless we take a break. This is one of those rare moments, and I spent most of it sleeping outside. Time well spent, I’d say, but I should get back. The sun is nearly set.
I stretch, enjoying the last moments of freedom before I begin my return. I carry the spell book under my arm. While Alfred doesn’t bring me out to practice much, I do practice by myself sometimes. I managed to borrow one of the books from his library. And when I say “borrow,” I mean I kind of took it without asking. I’m sure it will be fine. So long as I’m extra careful not to damage it, I can return the book before he even misses it.
Not that I think he’d go looking for it any time soon—it was a fairly boring read! The book is about auras, the fields of energy that surround living creatures. It describes how to sense them, mask them from others, and even how to turn them into a protective barrier. But, of course, it takes 300 pages to say as much! I’m new to auras and they are confusing but I’m learning to understand them.
The streets are emptying as most of the villagers are home finishing their dinners. I’m so late, I’m sure Alfred will send me straight to bed. Finally I arrive at his little cottage and quietly slip inside. As I close the door behind me, a familiar voice starts a familiar lecture. “I believe I said ‘two hours,’ Meta. You’ve been gone all evening! Where have you been?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” I say, holding the book behind my back as Alfred sits up from his chair in the sitting room. “I was just taking a nap.”
Alfred frowns. “You’re always late! You’re a magic user, Meta! Your power is a responsibility. You should not be so careless about your training. You have such untapped power—what if you cannot control it because you spent all your time lazing about when you should be training?” He looks outside with a huff. “Well, it’s too late to review now, anyway. We should head for bed soon. We will rehearse Bane of Arthropods from the beginning tomorrow.”
I GRIT MY TEETH, knowing if I fight him I’ll only make things worse. I sigh. “Fine, Alfred.”
I toss the spell book on auras onto my bedside table and drop onto my bed. My nap earlier did nothing to renew my energy, I could easily fall back asleep if only Alfred hadn’t said what he did! I am thankful for my gift, but will I be able to fully control it one day? What if something goes wrong and I hurt someone with it? . . . I press my face into the pillow. No, I shouldn’t think like that.
[_“I can see the worry in your eyes, child,” Gwen says as I lower my hands. “Please, tell me what is bothering you.” _]
[_I take a deep breath and let out a sigh. “Gwen . . . did people ever call you a witch?” _]
[_Her smile turns to a frown. “I’m afraid so, my child. The village children discovered my gift when I was your age. Suddenly, I found there were less and less to call friend. Some turned on me, indeed calling me a witch.” _]
[_I look at her and ask: “Are they right? Are we witches?” _]
Gwen smiles and shakes her head. “No, dear. We have one thing in common with witches: we are born with magic running through our blood, much as they are, but that is where the similarities end. We are mages, Meta. Witches might look like us, but they are not people like us. They have a disregard for life and nature, and the concept of death doesn’t bother them much.” She looks at me again. “We mages might not live quite as long or be as strong as they are, but we possess something they lack. Do you know what that is?”
[_I shake my head and shrug. “No, Gwen. I’m afraid I don’t.” _]
She smiles again. “A conscience, Meta. We have a moral sense, of what is right and what is wrong. A tiny voice in the back of your head telling you if something is okay. For example, if you see a rabbit in the forest, would you use your magic to fling it through the air until the poor thing dies? Of course not. Witches would play with it as if it was a toy, and they would do so until they break their toy or get bored. After that, they’ll move on to something else. Rest assured, Meta, we are nothing like the witches. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We can choose who we become.” She throws a glance my way. “I can see there is something else bothering you.”
[I nod. “Why were _]we[ born with this power, out of all people?” _]
Gwen frowns. “I cannot tell you why we are born with the powers we have, child. But I have always felt like there is a reason. All of us have a part to play, mage, witch or otherwise.” She looks out the window. “Everyone is given opportunities and challenges in life, no exceptions. How we choose to deal with them defines who we are.”
[_“But what if I can’t handle my challenge? What if I can’t master my gift? And what if I do succeed and still end up unhappy?” _]
She softly runs a hand through my dark hair. “You will be able to master your gift, Meta. I am sure of that. Even if you weren’t exceptionally talented, you’re still young. You’ll have plenty of time. And you’ll have the rest of your life to become happy. Have faith that you can handle the challenges that cross your path, no matter what they are. You’ll see everything will be all right in the end.”
I hear a rumbling in the distance as my mind returns to the present. The window panes shake in their frames. I jerk upright. What is that? Is it the wind? No . . . it can’t be. I don’t hear any howling, everything is just shaking.
Familiar footsteps sound in the hallway before my door swings open. It’s Alfred. “Meta, are you all right?”
I nod. “What was that?” I ask him.
“I don’t know. Come, we must hurry.”
I MAGICALLY EQUIP ONE of my robes and we rush outside. Villagers are poking their heads out of their houses. A whistling sound blares from the northeast, growing louder and louder until a massive ball of dark energy comes into view. Before we can do anything, the ball crashes into our house and explodes, sending both of us into the air.
I hit the ground hard as bits and pieces of what used to be our house rain down around me. A moment later or a few steps slower and we would have been inside when that thing came down! Through the ringing in my ears, I hear screaming break out around the town as more and more explosions follow. I shield my head with my arms, curl up, and lay still. I feel the shockwaves of every explosion reverberate through the ground beneath me.
The ringing in my ears overpowers the sounds of the explosions and the screaming. I can’t do anything but wait. A while passes before the shockwaves stop and I open my eyes. The explosions have thrown up dust all around me and it’s hard to breathe or see. I sit up slowly, my body aching as bits of debris roll off of me. I look around. Most of the buildings are gone; ruins where houses once stood. The town hall has been reduced to rubble and there are small fires burning all over the place. The streets are littered with dust and broken bricks and wood. The once living village is now filled with death.
“Alfred!” I cough. “Alfred! Where are you, Alfred?”
I hear muffled moaning from a nearby pile of rubble. I stand up on shaky limbs and make my way across the wasteland that was once our backyard. Blocks of wood and stone are scattered everywhere and I can barely cover any ground without climbing or jumping. I shove aside rubble, calling my mentor’s name. Finally I push aside a fallen beam and find Alfred, his eyes lidded and a shard of wood protruding from his chest.
My mouth falls open. “Alfred, no!” I run to his side and reach out for his wound. A green glow emanates from my trembling hands as I send out my healing magic. It’s not working! The light around my fingers flickers and fades as I try to heal him again and again. He sighs, his breathing raspy, and softly grabs my wrist.
“Meta . . . save your energy, child.”
I furiously shake my head. “No, Alfred, I might be able to save you . . . “ I try again, but it’s no use. I’m shaky and can’t focus my mind enough to use my magic.
He smiles at me, ever so faintly. “You tried, Meta, that is all . . . I can ask of you.” He coughs painfully.
A chill steals over me as I realize there is nothing I can do for him. “Alfred, no . . . “
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small gemstone. “Meta . . . take this . . . and run to the capital. Tell them . . . a friend of Gwen sent you . . . “ He sighs again. His already soft grip loosens even further, and his arm drops to the ground as his muscles relax and his gaze empties.
“Alfred . . . no . . .” Tears fall freely down my face as I clutch his hand, the stone digging into my palm.
Fear and confusion mix with sorrow. Why did this happen? What could have caused so much destruction? Was it a natural disaster? A terrible accident? Some kind of otherworldly creature?
Suddenly I realize I am not alone. I can feel another presence nearby, unlike any I’ve felt before. It’s an extremely dark energy and I feel very uneasy. I scramble away from the remains of our house as quietly as I can. I don’t stop until I reach the treeline and have put a tree between the presence and myself. The air isn’t as dusty here and I take a deep breath as I mask my aura.
A FIGURE SLOWLY COMES into view. In the gloom I can see it’s a woman wearing black and purple robes . . . She carries a staff with a strange glowing stone at it’s head. Is she another mage? What is that stone she bears? I feel a strange aura coming from it, but I don’t dare approach for a better look.
The stranger kneels at Alfred’s side. She checks his pockets and, finding them empty, checks his hands and surroundings.
Poof! Alfred is gone.
The mage looks around. She doesn’t spot me. Clearly agitated, she levitates into the air and flies off.
I wipe the tears from my eyes. There is no doubt in my mind. That was a dark mage, and a very powerful one. Dark mages aren’t unheard of, but they are unusual. Gwen told me about some mages who have achieved their power sometimes succumb to the darkness in their hearts and use their gifts for harm. But who is this dark mage?
This dark mage is responsible for the destruction of my village and the deaths of many. She was looking for something, something Alfred had . . . I glance at the stone in my hand. All living things have aura, of this fact I am aware, but non-living things do not. I sense within this stone an aura, but that is not possible. Could it be enchanted? If I sense something from this stone then how did that dark mage miss this? My robe! I equipped it as I ran from the house. It’s protection spell must have been powerful enough to shield my aura and the aura of this stone.
I grip the stone tightly in my palm. If she was looking for this gemstone, I have to keep it from her, no matter what. I have to follow Alfred’s final request and go to the capital.
I’ve never been to the capital, but I know the journey is long. I begin walking north, but my injuries from the explosion make it difficult. I am covered in cuts and bruises and want to rest; to be cared for.
I sniffle, feeling sorrier for myself than I ever have. I don’t remember anyone ever caring for me. I don’t even remember my own mother and father. I have always taken care of myself, but in this moment the weight of the situation is too much to bear. I break down and cry, big, heavy tears. The physical pain is no match for the emotional loss of my mentor and caretaker. I don’t want to be on my own, not now, not with the responsibility of carrying this stone to the capital.
I continue walking as I cry. I don’t stop. That mage is looking for the stone in my pocket and I don’t want to be near the village when she returns.
To make things more difficult, parts of the forest are also destroyed. Some trees have been torn down, while others have been uprooted, and in some places there are nothing but enormous craters where there once were trees. My tears cease as I feel a rush of anger. Some of these trees have lived hundreds of years, and now they’re gone! The animals that lived here are now homeless or worse. It was bad enough the mage destroyed my village, but what was the point of ruining this place too?
I cover as much ground as I can, my anger carrying me farther than I could’ve gone on my own. Finally, I give in to exhaustion, dropping to my knees on a large patch of moss. I have managed to cover quite some distance; the village is nothing but a smoke pillar behind me now. I’m so tired and hungry, but all I can do is curl up and shiver as rain starts dripping from the canopy.
A soft purring wakes me. A small ocelot kitten has crawled up to me, its fur soaked with rain. “Hey, little guy,” I say sleepily. I lift the edge of my cloak to provide it with some shelter. The kitten crawls even closer and gets comfortable. My wet robes cling to my skin. I’m uncomfortable, but at least I’m not too cold. I slowly drift off to sleep once more.
THE NEXT MORNING, THE rain has stopped, but my robes are still damp. I did not sleep well, my dreams were plagued with nightmares and memory fragments. I want to stay in bed forever. Except I’m not in my bed, I am in the middle of nowhere, lying on a patch of moss.
The ocelot kitten is still sleeping peacefully, but it quickly wakes as I sit upright. I am sore and the cuts on my skin are burning. I take a deep breath and focus my energy into my hands. One by one, I heal most of the cuts, except for a few I cannot reach. At least the cuts I healed can’t get infected.
Without the noise of the rain to mask it, I hear the sound of flowing water nearby. The kitten follows me as I make for the small stream and watches as I use some of the cold water to wash my face. I’d forgotten how dusty it had been after the explosions. I clean off dirt and ash and wipe away dried tears and feel refreshed. I look to my side and see the kitten playfully shoving the gemstone back and forth. Yikes! It must have slipped out of my pocket when I bent over!
“Whoops! That’s not for you.” I reach out to grab the stone, but the kitten bats at my hand, takes the stone in its mouth, and dashes away. I jump up, startled, and give chase as the kitten lopes away, jumping along the rocks at the pond’s edge. A short chase follows as I manage to corner it against the water’s edge. I carefully reach out to grab the stone, but the moment I touch it, I feel a tremendous energy flow through me.
The world around me turns violently, and I feel like I’m falling. I close my eyes to make it stop. Then, suddenly, it’s over. I feel nauseous and dizzy, like my stomach turned inside out.
“Miss, are you all right?” I open my eyes to find myself face-to-face with the ocelot kitten. I jump back.
“D-did you just talk?”
Startled, he nods. “Of course, I did, but I didn’t expect an answer. Are you a witch?”
I shake my head. “I’m a villager.”
He looks at me in confusion. “Well, this is the first time I ever saw a villager doing that.” Now it is my turn to be confused. He gestures me to the water. “Here, see for yourself.”
I walk to the waterside, but something feels off. I’m low to the ground, and I can’t get up on two legs. Why am I walking on all fours? I glance down at my reflection, to find two large, green eyes staring at me. Cat-like eyes, like the kitten’s. My skin has turned to beige fur, whiskers have sprouted from my cheeks, and there are paws where my hands and feet once were. I have large ears on my head and a tail on my lower back.
“What’s happened to me?” I ask.
The kitten tilts its head. “I was going to ask you the same, but you have no idea either . . .” He looks toward the small gemstone. “It must have something to do with that pretty stone . . .”
Of course . . . the stone! Now I remember! Gwen once taught me about an ancient artifact of great power, split into many pieces and divided in secrecy. This must be one of the shards of Bregu! So that’s what the dark mage was looking for . . . I can’t seem to change back by myself. Maybe if I use the stone again? I walk to the stone and touch it. Nothing seems to happen.
[_Focus, Meta . . . _]I close my eyes and feel the world turning again. I open them to find my hands and all the rest of me back to normal. The kitten sits at my feet, looking up at me quizzically.
“I’m just as confused as you are,” I tell the kitten. It blinks silently. Apparently, I can only understand it when I’m in ocelot form. I clench my fist around the stone and think about being an ocelot and then suddenly I’m transformed again. I seem to be getting the hang of this.
“YOU’RE WEIRD,” THE KITTEN says.
I try to chuckle but I only produce a soft purr. “You’re not the first to tell me. I’ve always been different, and I think I’m okay with that.” The kitten tilts its head in confusion again, but I don’t mind it—wait until I show Alfred! Then I remember that I can’t.
I shake my head as if I can throw off sadness. I’d almost forgotten I’m on a mission! I have quite some distance to travel, maybe this stone could make my journey easier. If I could find a bird or some other fast animal . . .
“I have to go,” I tell the kitten. “Do you know the way to Capital City?” He blinks in confusion—of course, an animal wouldn’t know what a capital is. “It’s the big city with the high walls.”
“Oh!” The kitten nods. “I’ve heard of the big walls! Just follow the trail, it leads westward. It should take you to a river that flows to the north. I can’t tell you where that ends, though. I’ve never been that far from home before.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure I’ll find the way. Thank you!”
“No, thank you. For keeping me warm last night,” it tells me.
I smile, take the gemstone between my teeth and dart off.
After covering some distance, I change back to my human form. This is amazing . . . Am I able to change into other creatures? I think about becoming a rabbit, but there’s no change. However, I can change back and forth to an ocelot at will, it seems. I remember the ocelot kitten running off with the gemstone . . . Maybe the stone needs to touch other creatures first before I can change into one.
I have so many questions. How long can I stay in another form? Would it work for plants? What about people? I hold the stone against a tree and try to change, but nothing happens. Maybe something smaller? I get the same result with a nearby berry bush. Okay, that crosses plants off the list.
I gather a handful of berries and eat them as I continue following the path. A soft rustle in the brush startles me. Eager for a new subject to transform into, I part the leaves to find a rabbit’s nest. Five baby bunnies blink up at me with new eyes.
I coo. “Don’t worry, everything will be all right.” I carefully reach down and touch the stone to the nearest rabbit’s forehead. A soft glow tells me it had some effect, but I think it would be best to leave the nest, in case the mother rabbit comes looking for her litter.
I put some distance between the nest and myself. [_Okay, Meta. You’ve done this before. Focus. _]The world turns around me, and it’s nowhere near as nauseating or dizzying as before. I think I’m getting used to this. As I open my eyes, I’m startled by how close to the ground I suddenly am. My long ears, fluffy tail, and white fur give away that it worked. The stone is next to me on the ground, but I can’t really take it anywhere without putting it in my mouth. Unless . . .
I change back to human form and gather some of the tall grass growing around me. I braid the strands together and make a small cord for the gemstone. I tie a knot that I can easily tighten or loosen, so that if my proportions change, a small change will suffice and I’ll have the stone with me at all times. Let’s see if it worked. I change into a rabbit and put the small bracelet around my ear, tightening the knot so it won’t fall off. Perfect.
With my small, springy rabbit limbs I start westbound, bounding far faster than I ever could as a person.
Legends and Heroes Issue 10: StoneMarshall.com/l&h0010
Solve the puzzle. Uncover secrets!
1. Meta must _____ her shard of Bregu to use her power.
6. Gwen and Meta have been mistaken for _____ .
7. Why doesn’t Gwendolyn sense Meta’s gemstone?
9. What form does Meta take in at the end of this issue?
12. Where is Meta going at the end of the issue?
14. When young, Meta lived with her _____.
16. A field of _____ surrounds living creatures.
17. What was Gwendolyn looking for in Alfred’s village?
19. Berg holder and teacher to Meta.
20. What Alfred teaches Meta.
2. To understand _____, Meta must be one.
3. Meta’s original teacher.
4. The name of Alfred’s village.
5. The first animal Meta morphs into.
8. The Legend who destroyed Alfred’s village.
10. Meta and Gwen are _____.
11. Gwen and Meta share a _____.
13. What is the book about that Meta is reading in the woods?
15. Alfred's Hero teacher, now a _____, destroyed his village.
18. Where does Meta hang her gemstone when she is a rabbit?
[ALFRED *]AURAS[ BREGUGEMSTONE ]CAPITALCITY[ CREATURES ]EAR[ ENERGY ]GIFTOFMAGIC[ GREAT-UNCLE ]GWEN[ GWENDOLYN ]LEGEND[ MAGES ]MAGIC[ OCELOTKITTEN ]PROTECTIONSPELL[ RABBIT ]TOUCH[ VICTON ]WITCHES[ *]
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IN THE near future, video games begin to change and evolve. Virtual intelligence takes over the digital world and creates a digital crisis, bringing the real world to a halt. The only person who can save the world is Flynn, but he needs help from his friends, the Hackers.
Created and written by
EVER WONDER what life is like in Minecraft?
In the cube, a secret war is waged as Legends battle Heroes for control. Legends seek to darken the cube while Heroes fight to defend it. If Legends win, the game will never be safe for players again.
Created by Stone Marshall, with the Stone Marshall Studio
Copyright © 2015 Stone Marshall
StoneMarshall.com edition Oct 18, 2015
Published by Stone Marshall Publishing
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without written permission from the author at [email protected] This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is an original work of fiction that is not associated with Minecraft or MojangAB. Minecraft ®/TM & © 2009-2013 Mojang / Notch
Meta’s studies of enchantments are interrupted and her world changes forever! Meta is a simple mage apprentice girl who unexpectedly becomes the keeper of one of the powerful shards of Bregu. After the destruction of her village and the death of those she loves, she seeks revenge on the person who dealt this infamous destruction, the dark mage. Yet instead of receiving an attack power from the shard, it gives her a shape-shifting ability that sometimes bring her into funny situations.