Friday, March 15, 2013

Story - The Balance of Magic

It's been a very long time since I've written a story, much less published one on my blog.  This story is part of my Uroth world, but far in the future compared to the other Uroth stories I've posted.  It's part of a bigger story line that I have in mind, but haven't written yet.  I hope you enjoy it!


Beret sighed as he shifted his pack from one should to the other.  It wasn't a far walk from his small farm to town, but he had a lot to pick up and it would have been nice if his mule had been in a mood to make the trek with him.  Since his mule hadn't wanted to even stand up for him, he just decided to go on his own.

A sound from behind him made Beret turn and stare in fascination as a strange looking wagon rolled by him into the town square.  The first thing that he noticed about the wagon was that it didn't have a team of animals pulling it.  A man sat on a bench at the front of the wagon.  He was dressed in a funny looking garment that covered his entire body and was holding a wheel that seemed to guide the wagon to the left or right.

Beret scratched his head, trying to figure out what made the wagon move.  The driver saw him standing there and waved.  "Come to the town square, friend, and we will explain the marvels of this wagon and many others!"

Beret hesitated, but then shrugged to himself and followed.  The blacksmith shop would still be there after he saw whatever the driver had to show.  His hesitation became moot when he saw the blacksmith emerge from his shop and follow Beret and the wagon into the square.

The wagon stopped in the center of the square and the driver disappeared within through a door behind his bench.  Beret looked around the square and saw that most of the small town was turning out to see the spectacle.  The blacksmith, his name was Moost, stopped next to Beret.  "Good morrow, Beret.  Do you know what's going on?"

The farmer shook his head.  "The driver said that he would explain how the wagon moved without a team, so I followed him here."

Moost's face turned dark.  "Must be some sort of wicked magic," the blacksmith growled.

The blacksmith was twenty years older than Beret, born near the end of the Great Magic War.  As such, he'd grown up hearing war stories from his father.  Beret didn't know or care much about the war himself.  Moost's generation still feared and hated magic.

Beret's attention returned to the wagon as everyone in the square jumped when a gap appeared in the roof of the wagon and the two sides of the wagon slid down and out to form a stage nearly twice the area that the wagon had occupied.  Beret saw the driver and another man, this one wearing the elaborate robes of a mage, standing on the stage.

Moost growled under his breath said, "Mage".

Beret saw many others grimacing.  The mood in the square quickly turned from one of curiosity into hostility.  Moost bent down and started to pull a cobblestone from the road when the driver's voice rang out over the square.

"Ladied and gentlemen!  I understand your reactions to seeing my mage friend, Trianon.  The Great Magic War is still fresh on many minds around Uroth.  That is why we have come.  If you can hold off lynching us for a few moments, we are here to show you that not all magic is evil."

Beret heard hisses and grumbles in the audience.  Moost stood up with the cobblestone, but held it in his hand rather than throwing it.  The driver continued, "My name is Everet.  Trianon and I are travelling the length and breadth of Kalath, showing people the wonders of Applied Sorcery, or as it's known in some circles, Mechanical Sorcery.  Our goal is not to sell you anything, though we wouldn't turn away your gold if you see something you like."

He sent another genuine smile towards the crowd.  The crowd didn't seem as likely to riot against him and Beret knew why as he couldn't help but like this man.  Everet continued, "Our goal, instead, is to educate the masses about the large scale benefits of Applied Sorcery.  As you folks have demonstrated, there is a growing trend of distrust for magic ever since the Great Magic War.  We believe that the best way to counteract this unfortunate turn of events is to show people that magic can be used for so much good."

Everet pointed down to the wagon beneath his feet as he continued speaking.  "A great example is this self-propelled wagon.  It has many benefits that ordinary team-driven wagons cannot provide.  One, no animals to feed or hurt themselves during your journey.  Two, this wagon, on good roads, can move faster than any creature could pull a wagon safely.  Three, the mechanism that drives this wagon does not have a weight limit.  You could load this wagon full of the heaviest metal and still achieve the same speeds as if it were empty."

Beret glanced around the crowd and saw that they were as entranced as he was.  His own rickety wagonette was pulled by the most ornery mule that ever lived.  He often chose to walk to town, as he did today, instead of bothering to hitch up the wagon and drive to town.  The benefits of the self-propelled wagon were obvious to all.

The townsfolk all listened to Everet speak and Trianon demonstrate other equally remarkable gadgets for the next hour.  Beret lingered in the square as the rest of the townsfolk dispersed.  Some people approached the wagon and bought the little trinkets they saw.  Eventually, Beret was the only one left in the square.  Everet and Trianon were organizing their wares in preparation to leave when Beret finally got up the nerve to approach them.

As he approached, he heard shuffling behind him.  He turned and saw Moost with his stone hefting it for a throw.  Thinking quickly, Beret threw his pack at Moost, ruining his throw and making the stone fly wide of its mark.

Moost growled at Beret and charged him.  Beret closed his eyes and prepared for the impact with the much larger man.  A few moments later, he opened his eyes to see Moost, a panicked look on his face, hovering over him suspended in mid-air.  Beret glanced over his shoulder and saw Everet and Trainon with big smiles on their faces.

Everet walked over and stood in front of Moost.  He said, "We don't want any trouble, blacksmith.  We mean you no harm, but we will defend ourselves.  If you leave now, we'll think nothing more of this incident.  Do you understand?"  He waited a moment, then sighed.  "You can move your head."

Moost nodded quickly.  Everet signalled Trianon and Moost fell to the ground.  The blacksmith quickly got up and ran to his shop without looking back.

Everet put a hand on Beret's shoulder.  "Well met!  You were the one I saw on the road into town, are you not?"

Beret was somehow not surprised that Everet remembered him.  He seemed like the kind of person to remember everyone he's ever met.  "Well met, Everet.  I am indeed.  My name is Beret."

He smiled to himself and said, "Welcome, Beret.  What can I do for you today?  Are you interested in buying some tool to help your farm?"

Beret also wasn't surprised that Everet could guess his occupation.  He had the look of a farmer with the clothes to match.  He shook his head, "No, I don't think that I could afford any of your wares, but that is indeed what brings me to your cart."

For the first time, Beret saw the confidence on Everet's face disappear.  "I'm afraid that I'm not following you, Beret."

"Well, Everet, I don't have much to show for a lifetime of farming.  I barely scrape up enough food and money from my farm to pay for my own way.  Not enough to make any woman interested in struggling along with me at any rate.  As such, I was wondering if you'd be interested in a proposition?"

"I'm listening, Beret," Everet responded.

"One of my neighbors with a larger farm has offered to take me on as a hand and buy my property from me.  The only reason that I haven't done so is that having my own land is marginally better than working someone else's.  Your arrival gives me another option," Beret said.  "I'd like to do what you do, Everet.  I'm not a natural salesman, like you are, but if you can find me a partner that is, I'd like to travel Kalath and spread the same message that you have here."

Everet's winning smile returned to his face.  He waved the mage over.  "Trianon, my friend, I do believe that we have a convert."