Prologue

With the discovery of Magic, 2026 was marked as one of humanity’s most impactful years. Magic changed everything, from the way we viewed ourselves as a civilization to our understanding of the universe. It had proponents and detractors, defending their own points of view.

 

Many strived to lift this fog of mystery by deciphering Magic’s deepest intricacies. It took years of hard work and talented individuals to reach the level of understanding that we have today. Those who protested against studying its every aspect simply feared what they could not understand.

 

However, our curiosity and thirst for knowledge are part of what defines our species. It has brought some of our greatest accomplishments and innovations. Safe to say, we were simply too curious to let something as grand as Magic slip away.

 

Our scientists applied themselves with zeal to mapping out Magic’s laws one by one. Decades went by and many truths about Magic and our universe came to light. The phenomenon responsible for Magic is an invisible, self-propagating and self-replicating substance. This new energy, this “Ether”, flows around us and into us.

 

By training their bodies into consuming this substance, individuals harnessed never-before-seen abilities. For example, Illusion Magic reflects the light around us to create a mirage, an illusion; while Healing Magic accelerates cell regeneration to speed up recovery.

 

Unfortunately, thirty-seven years after its discovery, Magic is mainly advertised as a way to fight. But to a select few, Magic is so much more. This is why our project strives to record what we know so far about the theories of Magic in its entirety, without any bias or censorship.  

Abstract of the Encyclopaedia Thaumaturgia, 2063

Chapter 1

Arcane Magic

Wednesday, August 29th, 2063

The study of the Underground Palace had always been a disarray. This room, which was a mix of a workshop, a library, and a laboratory was filled to the brim with an assortment of rare items. The few inches on all four walls that were not taken by bookshelves were dedicated to the display of some important diagrams about Magic.

 

Spread all over the center table laid dozens of papers, from theorems to personal notes, alongside an array of vials, full of liquids of various colors. It was obvious that multiple experiments were going on at the same time. Four artificial lights, two on each side, provided enough dim lighting to work without distraction.

 

However, one piece of furniture contrasted with the overall atmosphere of the study, a well-worn leather armchair standing close to a corner. Sitting on this exact chair was a man in a long, white coat, who had just finished reading the abstract of the Encyclopedia Thaumaturgia for the seventh time.

 

Looking at the study, he remembered why this had been his favorite room because it was full of knowledge and mystery to solve. The various tomes that could be found there were rare and expensive, and his younger self always treasured being able to access such a well of information. It had also been his duty to prevent items in this room from any damage. So, out of habit, he diligently gathered every book on the table and put them back where they belonged.

 

The holographic clock of the study, which had just turned 7 PM, made a clicky but subtle noise. Knowing his time had come, the man determinedly left the study of the Underground Palace with his scepter in one hand and the Encyclopedia Thaumaturgia in the other.

 

He did not need any kind of direction, letting his muscle memory lead him to the visiting hall. The Underground Palace lived up to its name, without any kind of natural light or temperature control. While jumping down the final flight of stairs in front of him, he felt the temperature drop again. Out of habit, he consumed some Ether inside his body to warm himself up.

 

Footstep after footstep and stair after stair, the main lobby of the Underground was finally in his line of sight. It was a spacious room, dimly lit by a row of alternating white and light-blue lamps. The room was meant for receiving guests. The furniture was not luxurious, but not mass-produced either.

 

Without saying anything, he finally stepped into the room. He was waiting for his former master to acknowledge his presence. The white and black mask on his face only showed his eyes, which would be enough for his master to recognize him.

 

Soon, the owner of the Underground Palace caught sight of his former apprentice, engaging in a staring contest. A strand of white hair betrayed his much older age. Wearing a white robe and an emerald circlet, the old man emanated a calm aura of power.          

With a soft smile on his face, the older man jumped up from his own couch and slowly walked toward his visitor. Respecting traditions, they engaged in a forearm handshake, with a hidden meaning of respect and care towards one another. It was the masked man who broke the silence.       

        Elder Sage… it’s been a while.

        It’s always good to see you, Master of All Magic. Although my money is on you not being the one who chose this sobriquet.

        You bet I didn’t. It’s way too long.

The handshake coming to an end, the Master of All Magic was now bowing and offering his copy of the Encyclopedia Thaumaturgia with his two hands.       

        Through my network… I was able to acquire two copies off the radar. This one is for you.

        You didn’t!

        Why shouldn’t I?

The Elder Sage politely accepted the book and immediately opened it, only to find himself in a state of shock. He was currently holding a copy of a banned book, that was released only within black markets and through deep connections.   

       This is a signed copy, by the whole team! Do you have any idea how valuable this will be in twenty years?!

The Master of All Magic held a smile behind his mask. He had always found this side of his master’s character a bit endearing. However, to him, they were just names inscribed on a book, therefore not something he could use.   

       Probably, but I have no interest in such a thing. You can keep it.

       You have no idea how much I appreciate this.

The Elder Sage bowed his head in return, a sign of a gift well-received.

 

He then gestured towards the seating area, inviting his former apprentice to seat. He had also made sure to have both their favorite kinds of tea brewed and ready to serve. While he could not even skip a day without some of his cherry tea, his former apprentice had always preferred a simple black tea, with a few drops of lemon juice on top. In a nutshell, the Elder Sage was taking his host duty very seriously.

 

After all, his interactions with other people were very limited, hence why he grasped every opportunity to make good memories of such rare events. 

       How’s business?

       Tough, but the same. I assist those who can spare their Magic secrets. I also have the responsibilities you gave me.

The meaning behind the emphasis on the word “gave” was not lost to either of them, and silence quickly fell onto the room. They both used that time to drink a bit of their own tea. While they tried to continue the small talk for some time, silence always ended up coming back. The Elder Sage was still processing the Master of All Magic’s words and passive-aggressive stance. He decided to fish for some more information.

       Without you behind the scenes, our society would fall into chaos.

       I know. I am neither happy nor unhappy about it. I just do what must be done.

The old man recognized the cold tone and knew that he had to rely on another approach.

      Are you up for some exercise? I’ll make sure it’s not too tiring.

       Want to see those new Magic spells I gathered?

      Always.

Looking straight into his former master’s eyes, the Master of All Magic gaged how this would play out. When he finally came to a conclusion, he put down his teacup and continued to stare down the Elder Sage.

       Let’s make a bet then.

Instantly, the Elder Sage crossed his arms. He did not like the sound of this at all. 

 

He remembered how cunning and devious the Master of All Magic had been in his early years. However, even with the knowledge that this was definitely a trap, he decided that not learning what this would entail was a no-go.

       Terms?

       Unconditional honesty to a few questions. Whatever you wish from me and you get to set up the rules as well.

The Master of All Magic knew how serious such a promise was. He even had trouble preventing himself from smiling at his former master’s behavior. This was the first time he had seen him being so defensive about information.

 

On the other hand, the Elder Sage quickly understood how trapped he currently was. He could either refuse the bet, acknowledging his withholding of crucial information or accept, knowing that some secrets of his could potentially be revealed.

      May I enquire about the overall topic surrounding your questions? I’ll make sure it’s not too tiring.

       You may not.

      Damn, you drive a hard bargain.

Soon, the owner of the Underground Palace figured out his safest choice was to accept while praying to the gods that the Master of All Magic would not ask about the Arcane Magic. Even knowing that the chances of him knowing about such a secret were slim did not help to settle his fastening heartbeat.

       I accept.

They both stood up, with the Elder Sage taking the lead.

       Follow me.

Two minutes later, they walked into an open room, spacious enough for the practice of Magic. Its floor was made from an immaculate grid of grey marble, with a white circle outlining its center. On two of its four walls stood installations related to three of the four forms of Elemental Magic.

 

A corner smile rose onto the face of the Master of All Magic. Nostalgia ingulfed him as he remembered his early days learning the basics of Magic. He touched one of the water tanks he used to eagerly practice his Ice Magic on.

 

Nevertheless, one detail was bothering him. If they were supposed to fight, he could think about at least three other rooms that would be a better fit.

       We’re not going to fight, are we?

       It’s been a while since I last saw you. I don’t feel the need to punch you yet.

From the inside of his robe, the Elder Sage took out a purple scarf and tied it to his waist. All he had to do then was give his former student a knowing look.

      How about a round like old times?

       No limitation in Magic allowed I presume.

      You presume well.

After sparing a sarcastic comment, the Elder Sage played it fair and gave him a couple of minutes to think about his approach. Both himself and the Master of All Magic were very well acquainted with such a game, making it far more interesting. They had seen tens of different strategies to either safeguard or steal the scarf.

 

This was exactly why the Elder Sage had chosen this game. He knew his former apprentice would not spare any efforts in using his newly acquired spells. The Master of All Magic simply angled his scepter against the wall and started to focus on his own thoughts.

 

The masked man soon slipped back to reality and gave a slight nod. However, he winced at the attitude of his former master, who had been repeatedly flipping a golden coin through the air.

       That’s how you use my Coin of Knowledge?

       Do you think I will ever be in need of your network?

The Master of All Magic heavily sighed but ended up agreeing.

       Point taken. Do we start when it hits the floor?

       We do.

They wasted no time shifting into their favored defensive stances. Despite their agreement of not going for any kind of physical attacks, it was hard to fight years, sometimes even decades, of built-in muscle memory.

 

With a tinting noise, the coin was flipped into the air. As soon as the gold circle made contact with the floor, the Master of All Magic went on the offensive.

 

Ether gathered on his right forearm, all the way through his hand. In a couple of seconds, its color shifted through light blue, deep blue, purple, to finally settled on a bright crimson. Once the Master of All Magic reached the closest water tanks, he instantly put his right arm into the water.

 

Soon, the entirety of the water inside reached its boiling point. With a push of his arm, the Master of All Magic angled the tank, letting a huge wave of boiling water clash with the stone-cold floor marble floor. It created a deep and dense fog, which spread across the room in a heartbeat. It was now extremely difficult for both fighters to clearly distinguish their surroundings.

 

Although incapable of stopping it, the Elder Sage could not help but appreciate how smart such a tactic was. It even made him feel nervous, resulting in an ever-increasing heartbeat. Nevertheless, with a couple of decades of experience behind him, the older man quickly got himself under control again.

 

He willed his Ether to improve both his sense of touch and hearing. His strategy was to focus on either hearing the Master of All Magic’s footsteps or sensing the air shifting over his skin. He was hoping to gain some microscopic sense of timing that would allow him to dodge the reach-ins.

 

The Elder Sage breathed out the air inside his lungs one last time before suddenly, a hand formed from within the fog and tried to grab the scarf. It took every inch of the Elder Sage’s reflex and athletic abilities to sidestep this surprise attempt.

 

The scarf holder could not, for the life of him, figure out why his heightened senses did nothing to warn him. He cursed the fog, which really did not make this spar easy.

 

A couple of reaching attempts later, the Elder Sage felt his reflexes getting sharper and therefore had an easier time dodging them. His morale jumped up and a corner smile rose onto his face. Although confident about himself, he still was not expecting the numerous vents activating, which slowly but surely dispersed the dense fog.

 

Soon, the Elder Sage caught sight of an empty-handed Master of All Magic. 

       That fog was a bitch. Well done, but I win. I’m curious, how did you remain undetected?

The masked man had a cheeky smile before fading into nothingness, leaving his former master open-mouthed. Near the water tanks, leaning on the wall, the Master of All Magic canceled his Invisibility Magic spell while fidgeting with a certain purple scarf.

 

Dumbfounded, the older man went for his left waist, only to find it empty of the item he was supposed to protect. He winced but quickly went into a thinking state, trying to piece together the clues into a complete puzzle.

       Those attacks… They weren’t real, right? Bloody hell, were they illusions? It would explain why my heightened senses didn’t pick anything… But how? I should have been able to sense and hear your real body going for the scarf…

The Master of All Magic chuckled behind his mask while giving back the scarf.

       I didn’t really go for the scarf, so to speak. When the fog spread, I had already prepared the casting of my illusion. I placed myself behind you with a silence spell on myself. The illusion attacked strategically so that your dodging would get you closer to me. All I had to do then was to be really subtle, which your lessons from a few years ago more than covered.

The Master of All Magic made no mention of how lucky he had been. Although he had the element of surprise in nearly every scenario, the Elder Sage had literally sidestepped into the perfect position for him to sneakily grab the scarf. It could have gone a thousand different ways, but luck was an integral part of battle.

 

The Elder Sage stood silent for a couple of seconds, analyzing every piece of information his former student had provided him.

      You shouldn’t have been able to cast such a complicated illusion in so little time. Illusion Magic is known to be one of the most time-consuming Magic to cast…

       One of my new secret spells, Free Flow Illusion Magic.

      Eleanor?

It was the Master of All Magic’s time to wince, while his tone grew colder.

       Yes.

       What did she want this time? From what you told me, she’s not the type to do anything for free, especially when it involves you.

Three years ago, during their last meeting, the Master of All Magic had shared the tale of his meeting with Eleanor Shinsei, an Illusion Magic specialist. By the time he met her, she had already started her new passion: innovating and producing new spells.

 

Eleanor had offered one of her new creations in exchange for his help in getting back artifacts that had been stolen from one of her close friends. Although this mission was supposed to be a one-and-done, the Master of All Magic bestowed upon her a Coin of Knowledge, a rare symbol of his trust. He had been convinced that keeping a close eye on her was the way to go.

 

Since then, the two of them had met on several occasions. Every time Eleanor developed a new Magic spell, she had been contacting the Master of All Magic to offer an exchange. In the beginning, it was a simple afternoon playing chess and answering some of her questions. Soon, the questions became more personal and she became more confident in asking him to stay the night.

 

The Elder Sage held high hopes for Eleanor. To him, not only did her interests align with those of his former apprentice, but her forthcoming approach was exactly what was needed to warm him up.

 

However, seeing the coldness in his eyes across the room, the Elder Sage knew it was better to avoid the topic altogether. Instead, the owner of the Underground Palace remembered he had a promise to keep.

       Let’s get back. I’ll answer your questions there.

The Master of All Magic grabbed his scepter before following his former master. Immediately upon entering the lobby, the Elder Sage sat on the couch, with his elbows resting on his knees. He, who was praying to the gods for a certain topic not to come, was slightly trembling.

       Fire away.

       First, I have something to show you.

The Master of All Magic reached inside his trousers’ pocket. Out of it came a cylindrical piece of metal with the letters “GLASS” imprinted on it. With the push of a button, mechanical parts moved to reveal a rectangular holographic screen, floating in the air. The device was currently displaying some kind of journal, with a lot of entries sorted by dates.

 

The masked man simply put the GLASS on the table, with the device shifting its screen for the both of them to see. He then slowly sat on his chair.

       You have some serious explaining to do.

Panic swelled in the Elder Sage as he read through the GLASS’ content. These were scans of his old master’s diary, alongside proof of the Arcane Magic’s very existence. This was precisely the topic he had wanted to avoid.

       Where… Where did you find this?

       Someone thought this was worth one of my favors. Is Arcane Magic real?

The Master of All Magic was not going to leave without an answer. He was determined to see this through, whatever the cost and consequences. Knowing how crucial this was, the Elder Sage’s silence was slowly starting to get on his nerve.

      For the second time… Is Arcane Magic real?

       Yes… yes, it is, but you need to understand…

      Understand what?

The Elder Sage had his hands on his face. He would pay whatever price the sky wanted if it meant getting away from this disaster. At least, now, he knew there was no point in lying.

      You’re only 28. You’re not ready. I was hoping to keep you in the dark a little longer.

       You do realize that’s not an option anymore, do you?

      I do…

There was sadness in the Elder Sage’s eyes.

       It all started with my master. He was extremely attuned with his Magic and broke the boundaries of what we knew was possible. It was he who dubbed it Arcane Magic just before passing. After seeing him perform absolutely stunning Magic spells, it was hard to remember he was only a man, fated to die like everyone else…

Despite his eagerness to learn more, the Master of All Magic stood silent. He was aware that being reminded of a tragedy was hard. Because he knew he would only make things worse, the masked man decided to wait for him to continue.

       When he was soon fated to pass, my master decided to pass on his knowledge to us, the new generation. He selected two apprentices and taught them all he could during his remaining lifespan. A month before his death, he gave me the title of the Elder Sage and entrusted three duties to me.

The Master of All Magic did not like where this story was headed at all. He had faced opponents in the past, whose motivation solely came from deathbed promises. These people had been unyielding, even in passing. At least, the Elder Sage had never shown him any sign of being unreasonable so far.

 

Meanwhile, the Elder Sage kept on telling his story.

       He made me promise to keep the Arcane Magic hidden. He had me swear to be forever bound to the Underground Palace to protect this secret. I could leave for a really short amount of time, but I shall always come back.

The sadness in his eyes turned to shame.

       My second duty was to practice Arcane Magic and add my own experience to push the boundaries even further… I failed. I failed utterly and completely. The Arcane Magic is so far out of my reach. Even though I knew the theory, I could never make it work.

This was something the Master of All Magic simply could not fathom. Magic was his life. He would never, not in a thousand years, stop trying to master new spells, however hard it would be. When Magic was concerned, the masked man would simply never resign.

 

Then, the Elder Sage looked in his eyes with some newfound determination.

       Finally, I promise to pass my knowledge to the new generation, as my master did. He made me swear to find talented and good magicians so that one day, there could be a new Elder Sage.

The Master of All Magic let out a deep sigh. After taking in all these new pieces of information, he could see the logic in his words. If he had to himself plan such a thing, the result would probably come close to what had already been taken into effect.

       Would you consider me a good fit for the Arcane Magic?

       No. I was planning on making you my successor, but I decided against it. You love your freedom too much. You’re not fit for a hermit life. You would be tempted to use the Arcane Magic to get out of trouble. One time is already something we can not afford. It’s too dangerous…

The Master of All Magic let out a sarcastic chuckle, a symbol of his disappointment.

       It’s ironic, isn’t it? You’re the one who released me onto the world, making me enjoy my freedom. Do you think I would have agreed with it if it meant sacrificing the Arcane Magic? YOU have taken away MY capacity to choose.

His tone grew colder.

       I won’t stand for it. I won’t pay for your mistakes. I call forth our traditions as master and student. I wish to learn the Arcane Magic. As per them, you are allowed to test me in whatever form you want.

After the Master of All Magic grabbed his scepter, he slowly walked and disappeared over the stairs.

© Arcane Entertainment 2021. All Right Reserved.