The Brotherhood (Part 6)
By Mark W. Meier
The Final Spell
“What exactly will it do?I know it’ll make me younger and age slower, but you’ve been a little vague on the details.”
True. I hadn’t wanted to reveal too much. “Okay. This spell will reverse the aging process of your body at about ten percent of your normal forward aging. In ten months you’ll have reversed one month of aging.”
“I’m sixty now. In fifty years I’ll actually be five years younger?”
“Then I’ll have a life expectancy of six hundred years?” Your eyes widened at the thought of centuries of life ahead. But then your expression changed. “How will I die? As a mewling infant messing my diaper?”
I laughed. “The spell doesn’t take things that far. You’ll age backwards until you reach ten percent of your chronological age, then age forward at that ten-percent rate. If you want to know when you’ll start aging forward again, use a calculator.”
You did. “At two hundred I’ll look forty-six. At three hundred I’ll look thirty-six. I won’t start aging forward again until I’m three hundred thirty years old!”
In some ways you were very quick. In others, not so much.
You realized your life span could extend to a thousand years, and only then did you think to ask, “How old were you when you died?”
“According to some definitions, I’m still alive.” I’d only tell you things about me that meant nothing. “I’ve been in this form a very long time.”
“You only look about seventy to me. How did you die?”
I decided on a half-truth. “I got arrogant. That’s all I’ll tell you.”
“Yes. And my . . . rivals . . . vanquished me in the time it takes for your heart to beat. Lub-dub, and I was gone.”
“I want to go to church.”
A non-sequitur if I’d ever heard one.
You continued. “Caryn said something about arrogance, and I want to learn more.”
I laughed. “If you really believed Caryn, you wouldn’t need church. Besides, by those rules you’re already one of the lost sheep. There’s no hope for you in that belief system. You’d be better off casting this spell to live a much longer life.”
“Caryn said using magick isn’t right, that it’s usurping God’s design.”
“Caryn’s world view is skewed.” I crossed my arms and glared at you. “Look what you have accomplished using magick. Nobody in this county is hungry,” a lie, but you’d never know that,“because you have altered the weather for years to produce bumper crops of all the staples. The homeless have places to stay,” I fought to keep a straight face, “because you gave residents enough income to donate to charities. There’s never been this much prosperity since I lost my position, all because you are learning magick. That’s not because of some invisible sky-daddy. Think of what you could accomplish in the next half-millennia – and longer!”
You vacillated. “I don’t know. What if Caryn’s right?”
“I’m trying to be reasonable here. You’re at a crucial juncture in your training, and shouldn’t let myths of Jesus’ forgiveness get in the way. You’ve done magick. People have been killed in your name. There’s no forgiveness for you. All you have left is to live a long life of good deeds to offset the vile things you’re responsible for. Maybe – just maybe – you’ll earn forgiveness.”
“I don’t want to go to hell!” You stood and paced to a wall of spell components.
“Ken.” I placed a hand on your shoulder and let you feel the weight of my touch. “You don’t have to. Cast this spell, live for a thousand years, and when you die you’ll be a ghost – just like I am.”
They say a person’s eyes are a window to the soul. I’ve learned to look even deeper. Your soul lay open to me the day we met. I knew you couldn’t resist me and the power I offered.
I was right. Your “window” cleared with determination.
“Okay. Let’s do it.”
I nodded. “First let’s practice one more time. Recite the chant.”
The entire mantra lasted nearly ninety seconds. You performed it twice without error as an energy hummed just barely audible.
“Show me your gestures.” Three minutes later, two flawless performances. The pitch of the drone increased. One of your bottles threatened to fall from the shelf, but I pushed it back with the flick of a finger.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“Let’s do it.”
Your hands wove a pattern in the air any dancer would envy. You chanted the words clearly, down to the syllable, drowning out even the thrum of building power.
It was beautiful.
It was deadly.
You completed the final movement as the last of your echoed chant died away.
Suddenly, you grabbed your chest.
“P-pain.” You fell to your knees.
I smiled – a nasty, self-satisfied, treacherous leer. “I know. It hurts. It’ll be over in a few minutes.” I didn’t need my hand wave to have the fake energy buildup stop in an instant.
Your face slammed into the floor. Arms leaden, you couldn’t block your fall. I’d seen this hundreds of times.
“What’s . . . wrong?” Somehow you managed to roll onto your side. The muscle tone in your arms and legs atrophied in seconds. You were nothing more than skin and bone.
“Nothing,” I said. “This is what I’ve been training you for.”
“I’m . . . d-dying.” Clutching your chest wouldn’t help, but the reflex couldn’t be stopped.
I smiled wider. “Exactly. While you were training for this one spell, you spread doom and social poison throughout the region. But more importantly I fulfilled a favor asked by my superior – to bring you to this fate at this time and place.”
“I heal . . . he . . .” You couldn’t finish the sentence.
“Healed? No. You spewed gibberish and I knit wounds, excised tumors, and the like.”
“No.” You reached a shaking, feeble hand to me.
I looked down at you without expression and swatted your hand away. “Yes.The spell you just cast wasn’t magick. There’s no such thing, by the way.”
“What. . .. ?”
“You see, I’m not a ghost.” I dropped my façade and allowed you to see my original form, a beautiful winged creature created by the Most High God. “When we were cast out, our forms changed. While we can still hold the old shape, it takes more effort than it’s worth.”
“Wha. . . .”
I shook my head. “It’s not worth showing you. I’m enjoying this show too much, and my now-natural form would frighten you to death too soon. You’ll stand before God soon enough.”
I’d seen so many of these deaths I could count your last seconds.
You rallied, imagining hope. “Stand before God? There’s still time? I can be saved?”
I shook my head and returned to my wizardly form. “No. It’s too late for you.”
“Damn you.” Your voice was barely a whisper.
“You first.” I examined my fingernails. “I have until the end of time.”
“I’m. . . .” you sputtered. “I’m doo . . . doom. . ..”
In your final moments you listened to me with every fiber of your being.
“When I said it was too late for you. . ..”
I glanced up from my fingernails and stared you in the face.
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Next week Act II: Prophet of Death begins.