It is Graduation Day at the Academy, although all of the teachers and a few of the honored guests were called away early this morning and have not returned. The ceremony proceeds without them, and... Things happen, including a battle between the avatars of Pirate and Ninja, a sort of dancing, and a lot of shouting. A man named Excalibur comes, and despite much suspicion by the staff and students, tells them that the rest of the Staff and others are returning, chased by many antagonists.
Continued in Flow.
A cold wind scattered leaves across an expanse of frozen grass and hard-packed earth. The field lay dormant, the sky grey and heavy with clouds. The grounds of the school were silent, except for the approaching crunch of footsteps, treading over the icy terrain. A young woman walked alone, across the field. Her brown hair whipped behind her in the wind, her coat fastened snugly against the cold weather. Cold… most unbecoming for early June. She stopped, standing next to a Rock. Carved deep into its ancient surface were words that had great meaning to each and every student at the school. The words were new, but their significance was old, almost as old as life itself. The rock’s words were “In Memoriam.”
In the shade of the pavilion, Carousel watched. He stood at the edge of the circle, runes stretching out to his right and left, lapping over each other, and finally reconnecting. Carousel exhaled. Carefully, he lit each candle he had painstakingly placed around the circle. With each flickering light, the circle silently sang an ancient song that only Carousel could hear. As the last candle was lighted, the Summoner scratched his beard, and announced himself.
“I am called Carousel. A mortal man, I seek counsel with she who has loved us since before we knew ourselves. She who inspires us, the Gentle Fire, Mother of Courage, First Born and Undying, the Final Spirit of Pandora’s Box. By the power of this circle, I call out to her."
Carousel stepped into the circle, and everything outside became pitch black. His world was the circle. Reaching out with his spirit, he locked his feet in stance, and whispered the words over and over again.
Shakespeare’s hands reached down and traced the letters of familiar names on the Rock’s surface. November, Onyx, Ambrosius, Jibril. Even the old, mundane groundskeeper, Jones, had his name inscribed on the Rock. Shakespeare’s hands traced over the two names that had been written close together. Valentine and Tiferet. Shakespeare felt the letters with her fingers.
Matthias Broguely, a quaint old Englishman, wearing a woolen long coat and bright orange scarf, had arrived unheard next to Shakespeare. He offered her a silk Handkerchief, with his initials on it.
Shakespeare shook her head no, “I’ll be alright.”
“Well, if you do cry, please ask for the hankie. If too many casters’ tears fall on this patch of dirt, we may start attracting ghosts. And with Summer Holiday ahead of us, I’d hate to spoil my vacation by having to exorcise all of the dorms.”Shakespeare laughed in spite of herself.
As the shadows at the edge of the circle whispered to him, Carousel kept repeating the words. He did not focus on why the ritual was taking so long. A face appeared at the edge of the circle. It was thin, and hollow-seeming, swimming through the shadows. As it spoke, the light drained from the candles, and the air became colder with each quiet word.
“She won’t come, you know. She hasn’t come yet. Why are you still chanting?” Carousel kept his feet locked. Sweat gathered on his brow, and his heart pumped faster and faster.
“I know who you are, Carousel. You must surely know me. This world isn’t going to belong to her forever. Nothing stays the same for all time.”
“Matthias… do you ever get worried that things can never go back to the way they were?”
“As a matter of fact, I do not. That the world is in constant flux is a source of great joy for me." Matthias patted Shakespeare’s shoulder, and spoke. “Every person whose shadow name lies on the Rock died fighting for something truly noble. Sacrifices of that caliber do not go unrewarded. This earth can never go back to the way it was, and thank goodness for that. Our friends died changing the world for the better. And they succeeded, whether or not they’ll ever know it.” Shakespeare felt a familiar lump in her throat.
“I miss them. I didn’t even know a lot of them that well, and I guess I won’t ever get that chance.” Shakespeare slumped over into Matthias’ chest, and the old man hugged her, as he dabbed a tear from the corner of his own eye.
“I miss them too, dear girl. I miss them too.”
A candle at the circle’s southern edge flickered dangerously. The hollow face moved towards it, hovering above it, choking out its life.
“Carousel… He left for a good reason. He was smart. You know what you’re up against. You need what I’m offering to survive.” Carousel’s finger twitched. In his heart, he knew the being’s offering was true. He felt that pride calling out to him. He saw himself, standing astride the world, with all the power of this being at his command. The candle flared, and the flames leapt, searing the face’s eyes and nose. It shrieked, as Carousel laughed. The Summoner outlined the door that had finally appeared, and he turned to look back at the rapidly vanishing face.
“If I find you near my circle again, I’ll toss you so far from this world that it’ll take a thousand years to get back. I have bigger things to concern myself with than ruling Earth. Go find some novice Summoner to hawk your wares to. I’m busy.”
The face smiled, singed and burning. “I’ll find you again, Carousel. And she won’t be able to protect you.”
As Carousel stepped back, the door opened in the center of the circle, and a single lantern, held by a delicate white hand, emerged from the darkness. A gown of white, and the fluttering of tiny wings announced the completion of the ritual. The candles faded and sunlight returned. Carousel stood, and smiled. But as he took a step towards her, he frowned, suddenly concerned by what he saw.
Matthias and Shakespeare stood next to the Rock in the cold wind. The sun was setting fast.
“Do you ever wish they could come back, just for a day?”
“I generally avoid wishing for things in general. Bad run-in with an Ifrit in Yemen, you see. But I hope they could all come back."
“Tiferet,” mumbled Shakespeare.
“Jones. He was a very punctual groundskeeper, never hurt a fly.”
“Yeah, him too…”
Matthias wiped his eyes. “Of course, there is one of them that could actually return.”
Shakespeare looked Matthias in the eye. “Why did he leave us? Is something stopping him from coming back”
Matthias looked up at the grey clouds as snow began to fall. “Shakespeare… I don’t think Deacon wants to come back.”
In the setting sun, a lantern flickered. Carousel ran, and caught her in his arms as she collapsed. She felt small in his arms, and hurt. She had never felt small before. Her lantern waxed and waned, and her breath came in shallow gasps. Carousel’s eyes were wide with fear. In a small and soothing voice, Carousel asked the most important question of his life.
“Global Warming, am I right?”
The old man opened his weary, wrinkled eyes and straightened his long, silvery beard. Enoch was old, and getting older. Or younger, depending on how you looked at time. And he did not appreciate being woken suddenly.
Rustling his makeshift blanket of newspapers, Enoch put on his spectacles. He sat in the front seat of a coach bus, heading north on I-87 towards the New Paltz bus station. The young bus driver, a black man of maybe 25, smiled and repeated his question, thinking Enoch to be senile.
“This Global Warming is a killer, isn’t it? Doesn’t snow all Winter, and now we have a blizzard in the middle of June! Crazy, right?”
Enoch spoke with a voice like a wise cartoon owl, as he straightened his deep red robes. “Indubitably.” He looked out the front window of the bus, at the intense snow storm that had come out of seemingly no where. The headlights of the bus shone on the white, icy highway, and the passing snow flurries made it seem like the bus was entering warp speed. It bothered Enoch that he had not seen this coming. Enoch was very good at looking past the present, you see.
“Indubitably!” Cried the bus driver, “Damn, old timer! Feels like I’m taking an English quiz with you. So, you and your friends getting in line for the new Harry Potter book already?”
Enoch gazed behind him on the bus. The bus was packed, mainly with fat American businessmen, blond-haired girls who nattered on their cell phones, and drunken young men, drowning slowly in their idiocy. Enoch saw the death of Magic sitting in the rows of seats behind him, blissfully unaware of the world outside their blackberries and hot pockets.
And he saw his students from the College of the Unseen Eye. Young and old, they dressed in red, and many of them read books of puzzles or fiddled with rubix cubes. When one can see the future, one plays little games so as not to forget the present. Enoch was proud of his college, proud of his students. It was an old school, an institution that cared about the Rules. His school’s philosophy had always been one of noninvolvement in the mundane world. Even as New York City grew up around the woods of his home, Enoch kept his philosophy of isolation. But one even older than Enoch had sent out a message. Magic was dying. And even those with the powers of the Unseen Eye can be wrong about what the future holds. So Enoch and his students had set out, one last favor for an old friend. And, as the old man pondered slowly, it would be a favor he was already starting to regret.
“Hey, old-timer! I asked if you was Harry Potter fans!”
“I’m afraid not, my good fellow.”
“Oh man! I love ‘em! My girlfriend, or I guess she’s my fiancée now, she turned me on to those books, they are great, man! Why don’t you like ‘em?”
Enoch wiped his eyes, half in tiredness and half in frustration. “Myself and my friends do not read fiction, stout coachman. We are very… good at guessing plot twists, and thus tend to read biographies and text books.”
“Word? Christmas must be a blast at your house.”
Enoch laughed with as little spirit as he could muster, “Indeed. Regardless, even if we did read works of fiction, we would certainly not associate with Ms. Rowling’s septuplogy.”
The driver nodded. “Ya’ll don’t like magic and sorcery and stuff?”
“On the contrary. We are all very much intrigued by those elements of story-telling. However, it is for just this reason that I find Harry Potter to be soulless tripe.”
The bus driver wore a serious expression. The blizzard was getting worse, and the bus was sliding back and forth oh so softly. “Care to say more?”
“You see, Harry Potter is not about magic. It is about a sniveling brat who embodies the most dangerous traits a magician can encounter, namely, Pride, Grief, Resentment, Vengeance and Recklessness. Across all cultures and histories, every story of magic ever told says that the Craft can only be practiced by the wise and cautious. If the story were realistic at all, the title character would have corrupted himself the first time he cast a spell in anger. Good Heavens, he even tries to use an “Unforgivable Curse,” if I’m not mistaken. He’s worse than the villain. Moreover, the idea of Magic being that easy, some garbled latin and a Stick, for goodness sake, why its preposterous. Magic is many things, but easy is certainly not one of them.”
The Bus Driver nodded slowly, pondering the old Prophet’s words. “Yeah, that’s interesting. I read a real good book recently. It was like a Harry Potter, but for older kids. See, it’s about these four friends, basically brothers, who grew up together. They wasn’t bad kids. Hell, one of ‘em even took care of his little sister his whole life. They were just misunderstood, right? Their lives were, like, really terrible. Livin’ in the ghetto, parents either dead or drunk, nothing good in their lives right? Anyway, these four friends all start realizing they’re good at Magic…”
“And no doubt, they are rescued and taught the Craft by a kindly Englishman?” mumbled Enoch, eager to get back to sleep.
“Nah, son!” exclaimed the excited Bus Driver. “These kids started realizing they could do some crazy stuff. But, like everyone else in the world, they were forgotten. Apparently, even wizards don’t care about poor kids. They waited for a long time, waited for the world to prove it could be a good place. And it didn’t. So, they taught themselves. They put their souls in a phi-la-somethin…”
“Yeah! That’s it! And from that point on, Magic was mad easy. So, that book seemed really real, and Magic was easy. So I dunno.”
“What happened to the children at the end of the book?”
“I haven’t finished it.”
“Well let me assure you, these four characters are in for a world of trouble. If this book is true to form, the debt these characters are racking up is tremendous. You see, Magic is not easy. These four children are merely too ignorant, it seems, to realize that the very miserableness of their lives is their payment. Everything has a Price. If the author is worth anything, she’ll have something horrible happen to them at the end. No one forfeits their soul and doesn’t regret it.”
“But, they wasn’t bad kids. It’s just no one had ever given them nuthin’, so they had to take it.”
“Morality doesn’t enter into it. These children are stupid, which is just as bad, if not worse, than being evil.” The Bus Driver nodded, and blinked slowly.
With a cranky rustling of newspaper, Enoch tried to get some sleep.
The bus driver spoke slowly. “You sure know a lot for a guy that’s never read the books.”
The bus slid slowly across the icy road. For the past minute, no other cars were to be seen. The snow fell harder and harder.
The bus driver, undaunted by the old man, continued. “Personally, I think that’s a load of B-S if you don’t mind my saying. Magic is crazy, man. Ain’t no rules. The whole damn point of Magic is that you can do whatever you want, when you want.”
Enoch groaned, “You people never understand…”
“You people?” The bus driver’s tone had become hostile. “What do you mean, you people?” The bus driver, one hand on the wheel, turned completely around to face Enoch.
“My dear boy, I meant no disrespect…"
“Who you callin’ boy, old-timer?”
Enoch was growing rapidly concerned, not about the misunderstanding between him and the driver, but the driver’s insistence on ignoring the road.
“The wheel, young man! Take the wheel!”
“Nah, nah, nah! You said…”
Every prophet on the bus raised their head in unison, like a nest of birds that had all just heard the hiss of a nearby snake. The Unseen Eye had opened. Enoch himself saw what was to come, and braced himself.
The driver, still staring at Enoch, “What you looking at?”
Enoch stared straight ahead, concentrating his mind’s eye on what actions would save his life mere moments from now. He thought to himself, privately, that the passing of this bus driver would be no great loss.
The driver smiled as a white glow flashed across his right eye. “I guess the Rules are what’s stopping you from telling anyone else what’s about to happen. Wouldn’t wanna let nobody in on the secret.”
Enoch’s nostrils flared. What had he not seen?
As the bus sped up to 90 miles an hour on the solid ice of the highway, an old woman screamed. Standing in the middle of the empty thruway stood a young boy, maybe 16, a long and tattered wool coat draped across his skinny frame. His brown hair hung over his brow, and he spread his hands wide. The darkness around his eyes was deep and obvious, even through the snow and nightfall. He smiled, and his right eye glowed with a dead, white light.
The bus hit the boy.
The boy laughed.
The bus sailed through the air, as silently as a moth’s wings. Time stood still. Spinning like a ballerina, the bus crashed into the woods behind the sign for Exit 18.
Enoch stood slowly on the ceiling of the over-turned bus carriage. Wiping some blood from his nose, he looked. All his students had seen what was to come, and had shielded the parts of their bodies that would come to harm. They stood on the ceiling of the upside-down bus, and struggled with the emergency windows.
All around him, the bodies of the mundanes lay broken and destroyed. One sorority girl’s cell phone squawked as her mother cried out “Jen! Jennifer! What’s Happening!”
The Bus Driver’s foot stepped on the phone and crushed it. As he straightened his back, the Prophets of the Unseen Eye stepped away.
The Bus Driver chuckled. He shook himself like a wet-dog, and shadows dripped off of him like oily smoke. Standing tall, there stood a young man, in his late teens, a long coat draped over his malnourished frame. His skin was white and dead, his eye sockets deep and blackened. His right eye shined white, like a shark before a kill, dead and flashing. He pushed his blood-red hair out of his face, and grinned.
“What’s your name, old-timer?”
Avernus, one of Enoch’s youngest students, spoke up. “I don’t know who taught you the Craft, but one never asks for another’s name. The question you meant to ask is “What are you…”
A thousand shards of glass burrowed through the young prophet’s head with a hellish screech. The boy sighed. “I know what I asked, dum-dum. Sheesh! Some people, am I right?” The boy chuckled and adjusted his coat, as Avernus’ corpse toppled back into his fellow prophets. “Fine, I’ll make introductions. My friends call me Puck, but you can call me Puck too, if you like.”
Enoch frowned, and pushed his spectacles up his nose. “You’ve made a mistake, Puck. You are not the first sor…” The boy squinted and his eye gleamed. Every window shattered on the bus at once, and glass sprayed all over the Prophets. Puck blinked, one eye lagging slightly after the other, and smiled, putting a finger to his lips. “Shhh! We don’t like people saying it out loud. Isn’t that right, Simon?”
Another boy, with a wild, auburn mohawk, appeared in a swirl of smoke, sitting upside down in the driver’s seat. Reaching into his long coat, he pulled out a conductor’s cap, and put it on, speaking into the Bus’s PA. His single white, soulless eye winked. “Simon says listen carefully! Welcome to scenic New Paltz, New York, home of historic Huguenot Street and the Ulster County Fairgrounds! The Bus has arrived ahead of schedule. Please collect all your luggage and exit through the nearest shattered window.”
Enoch blinked, and in a heartbeat, all the Prophets had leapt through the bus windows. Their robes dragged in the foot high snow, and the sheltered Magi had trouble keeping up their speed.
Puck, now standing on the over-turned bus cried out, “A game! What fun! We love games!”
The skinny boy that the bus had hit, appearing totally unharmed, leapt onto the bus and stuttered loudly “Tuh… tuh… tuh-twenty!”
Simon leapt on top of the bus, and crowed, “Nineteen!”
And a tall, blond haired boy emerged from a flurry of snow, standing lightly over the fuel tank. In a whisper that flew like a dove to the ear of every prophet, he spoke. “One… ready or not, here we come.”
The Prophets were bowled over with the force of the bus’s sudden explosion. Deafened and terrified, flaming scraps of metal fell along with the snow in the dark forest. Lighter than air, the burning bodies of the four boys shrieked with laughter as the explosion sent them flying into the trees. As the prophets fled into the darkness of the pine forest, Enoch heard silvery laughter emerge from the branches all around him.
The wise old man shouted, “Everyone, they have put up a veil of some sort. Never fear, the Unseen Eye shall pierce this shadow, as long as we…”
A snowball whizzed past Enoch’s head. With a snort of laughter, Enoch looked behind him. He did not recognize the student who had just died, because they had a snowball shaped hole through their face. One of the boy’s in the trees laughed uproariously. “Haha! If only you could have seen the look on his face!”
Puck yelled from the canopy, “We still can! Jinx, go pick up his face and let’s take a look-see.” Shrieks of laughter were accompanied by a flurry of snow balls, and the screams of the prophets reverberated off the trees.
Enoch kept running, his brittle bones weary and tired, mustered only by an old and ponderous fear. Elric, his young student, came up next to him. “Master Enoch, what are these things?”
Enoch shook his head, “I believe they are a…”
Before Enoch could finish, Elric was hit in the back with a chunk of ice and snow, and his entire skeleton ripped out of his body with a wet tearing noise, and flew through the air, smashing into a tree and shattering. A pile of twitching muscle and skin flopped into the snow and disappeared.
“Simon says no more slushballs!” cried one of the boys.
“suh-suh-sorry, no more suh-suh-slushballs”
Just like that, the snowballs stopped. Enoch gathered the few students still alive. They were cold, huddling together in waist-deep snow. They watched their breath escape them, mist pouring from their lips. This same mist was there, gathering in front of their hidden eyes. What could they not see?
Emerging from the surrounding trees came shadowy figures, covered in blood and glass, burnt almost beyond recognition. Fat American businessmen, blond-haired girls and drunken young men emerged into the snowy white light, still partially smoking. Standing still, they suddenly smiled, all at once. They grinned and grinned, until their cheeks split open and bled dark blood and their skulls cracked. And all at once their bodies leapt into the air, contorting and writhing, and they flung themselves about, like marionettes on invisible strings. One little girl, her soft skin charred and cracked, looked at Enoch with deep blue eyes. “Why didn’t you tell us the bus was going to crash?”
Enoch frowned, “Would you have believed us if we did tell you, little corpse?”
The girl grinned, “I guess you’ll never know.”
The animated bodies leapt like angry apes and tore the Prophets limb from limb, their screams muffled by the pure driven snow.
Only Enoch was spared, standing amidst his dead students, and when the business was done, the dead passengers stood to attention, hustling back to the treeline, their faces devoid of any thought or feeling. The four boys emerged from the woodline, giggling and patting each other on the back. They looked for all the world like a pack of hyenas, with dirty hair and long coats.
And following them from the woods came a girl, a child. She could barely have been fifteen, and her skin, her hair and gown were whiter than the snow, glowing with an almost holy light. She held in her hands a bouquet of white flowers, and looked at Enoch with pity and sorrow. And then the old man saw the only part of her that was not pale and translucent white. Her eyes were green and blue, with rings of gold and warm brown, hazel and indigo, deep and soulful eyes. She mouthed the words “I’m sorry.”
“What is the girl called?” asked Enoch.
As the boys surrounded the old man, the blond-haired one who had emerged from the snow touched his hand to Enoch’s back, and the old man tumbled to the ground.
Puck placed a foot on either side of the man’s head. In a poor imitation of Forrest Gump, he spoke. “We cahll huh Jenny!”
Simon giggled, “We love Jenny!”
Enoch murmured through a mouthful of blood. “Why did we not see this?”
Puck scratched his chin and looked very thoughtful. “Hm, how did we do that? Any thoughts, Jinx?”
The skinny boy chuckled, “An-an-an… anyone cuh-can see whu-whu… what fate has in store. But fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh-fate can’t help anybuh-body who’s luh-luh… who’s luck’s run out.” Puck leaned over and tousled Jinx’s hair, like an older brother who had just taught his little brother how to catch a ball. Jinx smiled bashfully.
Enoch nodded, the snow around him soaking up the blood of his students. “… Why us?”
Puck kicked the old man’s nose and broke it, as his friends laughed and Jenny wept to herself. “Because people like you don’t care about people like us!”
Jinx kicked the old man in his ribs, “Buh-because you care more about rules than having fuh-fuh-fun!”
Simon stomped on the old man’s chest, one time for each word he spoke. “Because… we’re Proud, Grieving, Resentful, Vengeful and Reckless!”
Puck re-adjusted his coat, and spoke matter of factly, “Not to mention that certain adversarial forces pay remarkably well.” Puck looked at the blond haired boy. “Snow, would you contribute to the group effort? Everyone else is doing their part.” The boys giggled.
Snow smiled slowly, and knelt down by the old man and whispered in his ear. “Because we hate you.”
Enoch grimaced. “Snow? Ah, so it was you who made this blizzard. Clever distraction, to be sure.”
Puck laughed. “We’re not that blunt, gramps! Snow’s shadow name is not meteorological in origin, you see. The best liar’s use the truth, and this blizzard is the result of down-home, American Greenhouse Gases. By the way, good call with that whole non-involvement thing. Thank god there’s not a whole community of wizards with magic powers. I mean, if there were people with magic, they might do stuff, to, like save the world, or whatever. Thankfully, if anyone did have magic, they should follow some obscure, arbitrary rules, instead of, oh, I don’t know, saving the world. You should be proud, Pops. It looks like the world will be destroyed by John Doe before us “evil” types even get a chance. But, hey, who could have seen that coming? It’s not like there are psychics around here, or anything like that. What a waste you are, don’t even have the sense to guess the right lottery numbers and donate it to charity. Pathetic. Anyways, why are you called Snow, Snow?”
Snow stood very still as the wind whipped his coattails and his hair out of his face. He smiled at Puck’s monologue “Snow’s very cold, Puck.”
“That it is, mi Amigo muy Frio, that it is.” The boys stood, and Puck turned behind him to pick up Jenny in his arms, and kissed her on her cheek and wiped away her tears. “Now look what ya did, Old-timer. Ya made my sister cry.”
Enoch smiled. His eyes opened. “You are fools. You have squandered the gifts you were given, and you have chosen your friends poorly. You have sought an enemy in a person much more loved than yourselves. When Matthias…”
Puck put his sister in Jinx’s arms. “When Matthias Broguely finds out what exactly? You dinosaurs really get my goat, you know that? Your world is dying. That’s the whole point of this stupid meeting at this stupid school, right? Do you know how strong we are?”
As if to illustrate his point, Puck pointed at a nearby tree. Slashing tendrils of lightning struck down from the snowy clouds, and the tree burst into flame. Jenny screamed in fright.
Puck wheeled on Enoch, screaming. “That’s how strong we are! No one else can do what we do, and we did it by ourselves! Have no doubt, we will kill Matthias Broguely and every little kid that worships him! And when his oh-so wonderful kindergarten is torn apart brick by brick, stone by stone, we’ll see who’s gifts were squandered, and who among us rose to power!”
Enoch smirked, broken and bloody on the ground. “All the power in the world won’t make you smart, boy. I’m sorry that Matthias hadn’t found you earlier, you might have been something worth speaking of.”
Puck blinked, one eye lagging slowly after the other. He whispered, “Shut up…”
“But as it stands, my boy, you are ignorant, and your future holds nothing but pain and misery. Go to your doom. One day, you’ll realize that Magic has at least one rule. Everything has a Price. What more can you pay?” The snow whipped the coats of the four boys. Jenny pulled Jinx’s coat around herself, and Jinx kissed her, and whispered words of comfort in her ear.
Puck straightened his back. “Everything has a Price? Fine. Fine!”
Puck leaned over, and pulled a wallet from the corpse of a bloated real estate agent. He tossed it to Snow, harder than expected. He nodded at Simon, who took a cell-phone out of his pocket, and hit “one” on the speed-dial.
Puck went to Jinx, and grabbed his sister away from him. “We’re out of here, guys. Let’s go to the diner. Jenny needs some hot cocoa. Snow, you know what to do.” Puck turned to Enoch, his white eye flashing with dead rage. “Everything has a Price, huh? Hope you got your money’s worth, old-timer.”
Snow nodded. Puck walked into the forest, as Jinx skipped after him. “Oh buh-buh-boy, I luh-love Cocoa!” Simon sauntered behind them, the phone to his ear. “Simon says Hello into your voicemail, from beautiful New Paltz, New York!” His words trailed off into the snow. Enoch looked up at Snow.
Snow took a knife out of his coat, and flipped open the wallet. He whispered absent-mindedly to himself, “No benjamins? Oh well, I suppose we’ll make do.”
The next morning, when the police searched the forest, they found no bus, no passengers, no red-robed students. Just a burned tree stump, with an old man’s head resting on it. It’s eyes were gone, its beard covered with blood. It’s mouth was stuffed with 20 dollar bills, and carved into the forehead were the words “PAID IN FULL.”
It has been a long year since the final exams of 2006. At Matthias Broguely’s Academy, life has changed, old faces have grown, and a new year at the school has come and gone. A memorial remains, a single gravestone inscribed with the shadow names of the students lost that day.
Cosmologically speaking, the events of last year have had repercussions echoing far into the realms of Magic. Across all worlds, demons have fled back to hell. When Tiriel, the Archangel, was defeated, Lucifer saw his plan for what it was. For the better part of a year, Civil War has raged in Hell, with the forces of Lucifer arrayed against the new army of Tiriel. As a result, demons across time and space have abandoned their personal agendas to report back to the Pit. This has caused many people who were possessed to become cured, many evil institutions to fall apart, and many Angels to rejoice and become somewhat unemployed.
However, the forces of darkness have not faltered in the wake of Hell’s defeat. Enemies far more subtle and dangerous threaten the Magical Community. The Gardenborne, deathless knights in control of the world’s corporate and political infrastructure, resurfaced, and in the past year have grown more ruthless than ever before. Through their efforts, Magic is dying. Smog chokes the forests, ignorance runs rampant through towns and cities and belief in the power of magic and the human spirit is all but lost. Scarred runecasters are found more and more frequently, Incarna emerge from the shadows striking at innocent casters, and every day another witch falls to her beast and becomes a Crone. All across the world, the Gardenborne have called upon the Fallen Knights, men who broke their oaths of virtue, to destroy monasteries of the Order of the Tree. And far more sinister dangers than these await in the shadows. The last days of Magic are at hand, and the Gardenborne are doing everything in their power to snuff out the spark of Hope.
Several days before the beginning of the Fall 2006 semester, Deacon, the Captain of the Knights of the Tree, left the school. No one knows where he went, only that he left a note expressing his love for the Academy, and the intention of returning from his quest.
From all across the world, refugees have flooded into the Academy, as the forces of the modern world strike against the supernatural. Prophets, Changelings and other strange casters arrive, seeking refuge from a dark world. Especially for the Knights, many of them have fled their homes, seeking the aid of Matthias Broguely, as their order in particular has been struck by the efforts of the Gardenborne.
Halfway through the year, Matthias Broguely announced his intention to hold counsel with representatives of all the remaining bastions of Magic power left in this sphere of time and space. Although he has not said it out loud, the students can tell that their generation will mark the end of an era… or the beginning of a new one. Although the council has no proper name, the students have taken to referring to it as the “Council of the Wise,” in reference to the Lord of the Rings.
Today is Graduation Day. Final Exams have come and gone, and it is the day after the one year anniversary of Finals. The senior class will be graduated, and preceding the “Council of the Wise,” is a high school Career Faire. Matthias has invited guests from all over the world to come and set up displays, showing different career options for graduated casters. Some are very mundane, such as working on organic farms or becoming public school teachers. Others involve guarding ancient tombs of wonder, or adventuring through hellish dreamscapes for fun and profit. Regardless, today is a big day, a rite of passage and hopefully a council that will determine the future of the magical world.
0:00 – 0:20: Graduation Ceremony of Jude, Archon, Hecate, Nimue, Epona, Crow, Cricket, Clockwise, Drosselmyer, Nod, Posthumous Graduates
0:20 – 1:00: Graduation Party (Social Drama Abounds)
1:00 – 1:15: Opening of the “Council of the Wise”
Game is called. Break for Dinner.
-Council of the Wise has been going on for an hour and a half (during dinner), no one has arrived yet. Very weird.
-Finally, some of Matthias’ Friends arrive. They say that many of the envoys have been killed, mention that a group of powerful rogue magic casters called sorcerers are in the area.
-Deacon arrives, has a fruit of the Tree of Life, explains the Gardenborne are attacking the school. In fact, the first wave of their attack is right on his heels!
-Militia is coming, split up!
Initial Things to DoEdit
-Go to Witches Grove to do Sacred Fire, the ritual is disrupted by the Crones. The spirit, instead of being bound to the grove, inhabits the body of the Crone. She becomes a feral killing machine. Witches barely escape.
-Runecasters go to secure Matthias’ Sanctum so they can protect the fruit of life there. Matthias suggests that they inscribe runes of awakening in some of the objects around his study, in case they have enough residual magic in them to respond. The Arm Chair comes to life.
-Summoners go to Summon Angels of dead knights from finals 1, Angels explain that a number of Corrupted Knights have sided with the Gardenborne and are coming to collect the book that has the names of all the fallen knights. Lastly, they take the Knights aside and explain how the Gardenborne can be destroyed once and for all with the fruit of life, but all the knights must sacrifice themselves, so their souls can drag the Gardenborne to the afterlife. Plus Gardenborne Blood.
-Knight reconnaissance, figure out that Militia are using Scarred and Incarna as weapons, Capture a Militia Member. When interrogated, he explains that the Gardenborne are hiding a little off the land, waiting for a cell phone/walktie-talkie call from the leader of the militia to come in and perform the coup de grace, or flee if things go wrong.
Meet back up at the SanctumEdit
-Collective Information now known by everyone: The school is being besieged by a Human Militia, along with Incarna, Scarred, Dark Knights and the Crones. They also find out about the walkie-talkie and the Gardenborne. The Angels take the Knights aside and explain the sacrifice they can make to defeat the Gardenborne. If the Knights take on Oath of Sacrifice on the Fruit of the Tree of Life, and have some of the Gardenborne’s blood, they can sacrifice themselves in battle and drag the Gardenborne to Heaven, forcing them to be reabsorbed by God, who’s power they have stolen. IMPORTANT: THE KNIGHTS DO NOT HAVE TO DO THIS. They can defeat the Gardenborne by just driving them away, and not having to sacrifice themselves.
-The Sanctum is surrounded by Militia. Right as the Knights are about to go kick some ass, the Dark Knights arrive, along with the Sorcerers.
-The Sorcerers have a creepy entrance, where they kill some of their own militia and use their dead bodies as puppets. Just as they start to break down the runes, Jonah, the immortal squire of the Gardenborne arrives.
-Jonah tells all the Bad Guys to leave, that the Gardenborne want them to go destroy the Summoning Circle and open a Planar Rift. Jonah waits till the bad guys are gone, and has a council with the Good Guys. He says he is sorry for what the Gardenborne have done. He will do what he can to help. If the school figures out a way to defeat the Gardenborne, all of their holdings (ie, trillions of dollars in stock, bonds and corporate interest) will be left to Jonah, who will in turn leave it to the Academy.
-Roddy Martindale announces his plan. This world is already lost to the powers of normalcy and disbelief. Roddy has enough power left to leave this world and journey elsewhere. He gives give an invitation to any that will come with them, to abandon this dying place and journey to a realm of dreaming, if all else fails.
-A couple goals are now apparent.
Class on Class QuestlinesEdit
Killing of the Dark KnightsEdit
This one is Simple. The Refugee Knights have a book of Outlaw Knights. All Knights are drawn to kill these brigands. However, in fighting the fallen Knights, there is a magical risk of being corrupted.
Defeating the CronesEdit
-Witches need to deal with the Crone. Need a strapping young man willing to be possessed.
-They need a Blood Sacrifice of a Human Life to enact their Ritual, Witches must capture a Witch Hunter and sacrifice him.
-Put Sky God into Dude.
-Witches set an Ambush in the Woods with the Shamans by the Sacred Grove
-Crones come, Witches Jump the Mother and the Maiden
-Dude gets the Crone to agree to play the Oldest Game
-Witch PC and the Crone play the Oldest Game
-The Crone will keep playing until the whole team is dead
-If The Crone loses, she dies. The Mother and the Maiden grieve, their coven broken. HOWEVER! If they have corrupted any witches, they will bind them and leave with them to go form a new coven.
Freeing the ScarredEdit
-The Scarred are attacking the Runes around the Summoner’s Circle
-Runecasters go to engage them and prevent them from destroying the Summoning Circle. However, there will certainly be other bad guys aiding them, so some guards may be in order.
-The Scarred have already severely damaged the runewall, and the Runecasters have to each write their own way into the circle. While this is happening, each Scarred is whispering things to the students, trying to get them to go insane.
-Once inside the Circle, The Runecasters each have to grapple/fight a Scarred, and inscribe a new True Name on them.
Dependant on what Name the Scarred are given, they will either try to corrupt Sefirah and Moebius, Leave, or if the student did an EXCELLENT job, might even join up with the good guys.
The Scarred will try particularly hard to corrupt Sefirah. If she goes crazy, only with Moebius’ help can she be brought back from the brink. If Sefirah does become Scarred, the Gardenborne have acquired a Powerful new asset.
Moebius, with a long history of being scarred, may go crazy. If Moebius is corrupted, Sefirah will try to help him, but he will probably attack her. Only if the students who have bonded with Moebius talk him out of it will he finally be cured.
-Any Summoners present heal the circle, and in the process, any lingering corruption on the Runecasters is purged through the crucible of this test.
- Magic Items
- Tools (Chainsaw)
Non-Vital Side QuestsEdit
- Keeping Bad Guys on their toes
- Rescuing Captured Friends
The Cell PhoneEdit
-In order for the Gardenborne to be called to the Academy, they must be paged via walkie-talkie. The leader of the militia has the walkie talkie on him, and will only call if the Knights have all been captured, or if the situation has turned so grim that all hope of victory is lost. The students must capture the leader and force him to call the Gardenborne and tell them to come if they want to destroy them.
The Final QuestEdit
-The Knights must be protected while they perform the oath of sacrifice that will allow them to defeat the Gardenborne. The Gardenborne send waves of attackers to disrupt the ritual:
Just need to be killed.
Just have to be killed. They are quite powerful. The angels have a particular beef with these demonic beings. Hope needs to LOCK with Despair.
Incredibly powerful. The only way they will be killed is if the little girl they keep with them who holds all their essences is killed. When this happens they will all become catatonic.
The Gardenborne approach, to finish the job themselves. Despair moves to their side, Hope temporarily vanquished. Hope asks for any spirits loyal to her to come to her side. She brings them back to Life, and then passes out, as Despair laughs. “It won’t do you any good.”
-The knights stand between the Gardenborne and the rest of the forces of good. They have to kill all the Gardenborne. After which point they will die.
-The Angels distribute lights and spirit costumes. The Gardenborne stand up and start laughing.
-The Knights drag them into the Summoning Circle. BIG LIGHTS! Music?
-Any that wish to leave the world can.
-Decisions are made, those that stay behind and who are not dead have inherited trillions of dollars, and perhaps a victory in the greater battle for the continued existence of magic.
-Matthias and Hope speak.
BAD GUYS CAN WIN IFEdit
-The Scarred are given a full hour in which to attack the Summoning Circle. This will suck the entire school into a planar rift.
-The Bad Guys kill everybody. They’re mostly capturing people.
What Really HappenedEdit
Diplomas handed out, long (not necessarily boring) ceremony. Speeches. Senior teachers still missing, minor worries about the Council of the Wise. Pirate v. Ninja battle, overwhelming support and loss for Ninja.
Social Drama abounds!
Excalibur runs in, explains that the Council of the Wise are in danger, massive enemies are approaching, everyone gets ready for action.
Everyone from the Academy, and all of their guests and summons.
Knights of the TreeEdit
- Archon - Justin Klare
- Noble - Jasper Weinburd
- Jude - Shane Hennessey
- Kite - Greg Schram
- Halcyon - Dylan Scott
- Daunzerly - Sean Sweeney
- Scarecrow - Jack Wink
- Orlando - Emmet ---
- Shakespeare - Molly Ostertag
- Brisby - Kate Kernochan
- Glyph - Ruby Lavin
- Happy - Moo ten Broeke
- Clockwise - Jacob Vestergaard
- Matthias Brougely - Devin Ellis
- Midnight - Julia Martin
- Daybreak - Billy Girand
- Deacon - Reed Mollins
- Sefirah - Genevieve Casagrande
- Icarus - Jami Marshall
- Moebius - Jacob Perlman
- Carousel - Ike Shaw
- The Big Bad Wolf - Nika Zeitlin
- Jack Swift - Griffin Johnston
- Hope - Julia Sub
- Shinobi - Alex Cook-Williams
- Jolly Roger - Matt Wright
- Wisp - Benjy Wachter
- North Star - Domitilla Rapisardi
- Canvas the Groundskeeper - Jack Covell
- Baron - Howard Moody
- Kudzu - Elaine Lee
- Tertius - Johan Sheridan
- Roustabout - Slanch
- Lord Augustine - Rueben Pacheco
- Sir Pious - Sean-Michael Hennessy
- Sir Benedict - Jon Miller
- Sir Dominic - John Dermody
- Sir Ignacious - Alessandro Nardi
- Jonah - Gabo Sub
- Shackles - James Lavin
- Zen - William Cooper
- Casino - Julian Trompeter
- Gauntlet - Chris Miller
- Cheshire/Jack 'o Hearts - Dylan Hamilton
- Main article: Jacob's Ladder
- Orpheus - Eva Petkanas
- Taliesen - Jesse Riemer
- Guile - Hillary Milton
- Kipling - Trevor Greenspan
- Evening - Joanna Rose Marino
- Timaeus (temporary member, turned traitor to help the students) - Reed Peck-Kriss
- Deadline/Released - Bebs
- Labrynth/Rescued - Mary Gordanier
- Samovar - Isabelle Louge
- Humbug/Proverb - Michael Joseph Grant, V
- Graffiti/Joey - Colin O'Brien
- Despair - Joe Graff
- Cruelty - Rachel Sprague
- Wyrm/Pennywise (Greed) - Bret Lehne
- Oroboros (Ignorance) - Claire Lewis
- Whisper/Slumber (Fear) - Elan Kwiecinski
Sorcerers (and Jenny)Edit
- Puck - Brennan Lee Mulligan
- Snow - Nick Goodhue
- Jinx - Nick Marini
- Simon - Jonas Finkel
- Jenny - Shelby Aileen Strauss
- Hatwood - Victor Shugart