Obelisks
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Ring-ting-a-ling-ding-ding…

Went the bells chiming outside of Hrefna Ghetrun's tent as Catorsia Cauxten, her newest pupil, stepped inside. It was a security measure installed by Hrefna after finding Catorsia in her tent uninvited in the middle of the night. The first time had given her a major fright, and had caused her to nearly knock over her entire tent. But thankfully, the sturdy supports built to withstand the strong winds on Orium were also able to withstand the weight of one elderly witch. When Hrefna had realized who it was, she gave Catorsia quite a scolding.

Afterwards, Hrefna had installed the chimes inside of her tent flap, such that any time something pushed them open she would be alerted to its presence and would not have to scold Catorsia about nearly giving the last remnant of an ancient society a heart attack.

The chimes had their downsides, as the wind sometimes pushed the flaps of the tent in and alerted Hrefna for no good reason at all, but this time they managed to serve their purpose. As Catorsia pushed their way inside, there was a sound of rustling from a corner of the tent as Hrefna awoke and groggily greeted them.

"G'morn, Catorsia…" she said, rubbing her bleary old eyes.

"Good morning, Mrs. Ghetrun." said Catorsia.

"Tuesday again, huh?" said Hrefna.

"I'm afraid so."

"Not a problem. Come on i— oh, right, you already let yourself in. Well, you just sit your tushie there for a few minutes, and I'll get some tea going for us." said Hrefna, as she rose out of bed. "Avert your eyes — I'm about to get changed, and you wouldn't wanna see an elderly lady in her birthday suit."

Catorsia clamped their eyes shut, and sat down on a nearby pile of cushions. They waited for a few minutes, until…

"Good lad. You can open your eyes now." said Hrefna, as Catorsia dutifully obeyed. "Get yourself settled in."

The sound of the chimes rang throughout the tent once more as Hrefna excused herself and went to locate the kettle that she kept outside, so as not to set her home on fire. Catorsia took their bag off of their back, and set it down, unpacking their thaumaturgy books and some homework that Hrefna had given them a few weeks prior.

Studying magic was no easy business, and involved just as much laborious writing and research as ordinary schooling. Luckily for Catorsia, they had not been properly schooled, and so had nothing to compare it to. For them, this was just about the most fun thing on all of Orium — for there was not much one could find fun on a wind-scorched barren planet.

They picked up a book and began to read, rehearsing in their head the basic principles of magic. They were not very hard to understand, but these were wizard's books, and thus classified everything down to the most minute of details. Hrefna had said that witches did not bother with classifications when dealing with magic, and merely felt it out. While Catorsia appreciated the laborious categorization of the many laws of magic by the wizards studying hard at Erminya, they found that the life of a wizard was not one that they were well-suited for.

The arrogance of a wizard can lead to much unneeded chaos. Wizards are people who study magic because they believe it is something they can control uncontested. Wizards seek power, and glory, and are locked in eternal competition with their peers and the world at large. This made wizards very untrustworthy and distrustful individuals, who would stab you in the back if the opportunity to further their goals arose without a second thought. Much in the same way that magic would betray those that were not strong-willed.

The competitive environment at the wizarding college in Erminya was stressful to say the least, and Catorsia found that they simply could not operate in such a life situation. So, they had left, and sought out alternative means of studying magic. It just so happened that the only available alternative on all of Orium was the elderly witch, Hrefna Ghetrun. Though Hrefna's attitude could be a bit off-putting, Catorsia was pleased to find that the witch's approach to magic was much more amicable.

"CATORSIA!" came the voice of Hrefna, calling over the howling wind outside.

"Yes, Mrs. Ghetrun?!" called Catorsia.

"DO YOU WANT MILK IN YOUR TEA?!"

"What?!"

"I SAID—"

Ring-ting-a-ling-ding-ding…

Catorsia shook their head, and stepped outside of the tent. Hrefna looked up from the kettle. "Ah. I said: do you want some milk in your tea?"

"Why would I want milk in my tea?"

"Why not? You're a cat, aren't you?"

"Cats aren't supposed to drink milk." sighed Catorsia. "And I'm not a cat."

"So you do want milk in your tea?" asked Hrefna.

"Oh, fine. Sure."

"I did hear some stories about milk hurting cat's tummies." mumbled Hrefna, as she went back to boiling the tea.

"It doesn't hurt mine."

"You sure?" asked Hrefna, tilting her head.

"Yes, I'm not a cat."

"You look like one, though."

"Just cause I have a tail, ears, and paws, doesn't mean I'm a cat."

"Sure it does."

"Fine then. How'd you feel if I started calling you a monkey for having opposable thumbs and walking on two legs?" asked Catorsia.

"Wouldn't bother me much. I sure look the part, at this age." remarked Hrefna.

"I haven't actually seen a monkey before, so I can neither confirm nor deny."

"And nor should you." winked Hrefna, as she handed Catorsia a cup.

She picked up the kettle and began to pour it into cups. Then, she took out a carton of milk, and poured some in the cup she handed to Catorsia.

Catorsia observed the liquid in the cup and sniffed.

"It's Earl Grey." said Hrefna. "An old favorite of mine. My husband purchased a tin for me way back before The Spell came along and ruined everything."

"Did he now?" asked Catorsia.

"Yeah. Got it straight from Erminya. It still existed back then, you know."

Catorsia nodded, then thought for a moment. "Was your husband a nice man?"

"Haven't seen him in decades. He went off to the war shortly after we got married. The Old Society was all about wars. 'Specially ones caused by the wizards."

"The wizards used to cause wars? I mean, I'm not really surprised — I've been to Erminya. Used to study there." said Catorsia.

"Sorry old place, is Erminya. It's pretty, sure, but all it's full of is bad-mannered men and women who thinks they know what magic is and thinks that makes them better than everyone and everything else." said Hrefna. "It's no surprise they used to fight all the time."

The two sipped their tea in silence for a few minutes.

"But yes, my husband was a nice man." said Hrefna, as she stood up. "A very nice man indeed. Nothin' like them wizards. Anyways, I expect you'd be wanting to get to our lesson for the day."

"Yes, ma'am." said Catorsia, putting down their teacup.

"We're doing another open-field lecture. Mostly cause I can't be arsed to come up with anything better, and there's still things I haven't told you." said Hrefna, as she finished up tidying the kettle and adjusted her coat. "Come, follow me."

Catorsia followed Hrefna as she led them out of the bowl in between the mountains, and into the raging wind.

"WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO ON A BIT OF A TREK," called Hrefna. "BUT IT WON'T BE VERY LONG."

"WHE— ahem, where are we going?" asked Catorsia, remembering that they did not need to shout for Hrefna to hear them.

"YOU'LL SEE WHAT WE'RE HEADING TOWARDS BEFORE I DO." she called.

Sure enough, a few minutes of scathing wind later, Catorsia made out a shape in the distance. It was a tall, rectangular shape. A skyscraper, perhaps? She had heard ancient legends of buildings that could scrape the very heavens, but now the plains of Orium were flat and you were lucky to have two stories on any building.

"What is that?" asked Catorsia.

"IT'S AN OBELISK." called Hrefna. "ONE OF MANY."

"An obelisk? Come to think of— I heard some stories about a giant tower out in the forest by Thea. That's where I live—"

"YES, I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. YOUR MOM AND I KEEP IN CONTACT SO THAT SHE'S SURE YOU'RE SAFE."

"Oh. Well, anyways… what's so special about these obelisks, then?" asked Catorsia, rubbing their shoulder.

Ahead of them, Hrefna lifted her wrist to her nose, and inspected it. Catorsia had no idea what to make of this, but apparently it granted Hrefna insight into something.

"IT'LL BE ABOUT FIVE MINUTES. THEN YOU'LL SEE WHAT WE CAME HERE FOR." called Hrefna.

"Might as well keep getting closer to it, then. It's still quite far away."

"YES, WE'LL WALK FOR A BIT. BUT DON'T GET TOO CLOSE. YOU ESPECIALLY WON'T WANT TO BE NEAR IT IN FIVE MINUTES."

"Why not?"

"YOU'LL SEE. FOR A HINT: LOOK AT THE GRASS AS WE APPROACH IT."

Catorsia turned their eyes to the ground as they trekked towards the massive monolith. Nothing but sparse, dry grass. Sparse, dry grass… in all directions as far as the eye could see… except for directly ahead, where there was nothing. Catorsia blinked.

The grasses of the plains of Orium had suddenly disappeared as they neared the obelisk. In their place, was nothing but dry, cracked dirt.

They turned their eyes back up towards the obelisk, and continued to walk forwards. It was still quite a ways away—

A hand grabbed their arm. Catorsia turned back and saw that Hrefna was the one holding it.

"What are you d—"

"Don't get any nearer to that obelisk. We're stopping where the grass stops." said Hrefna.

"But why?"

"Use your brain, child! And get back on the damn grass, would you?"

Catorsia stepped back onto the grass, and looked at the dry ground before them with an expression of confusion. Sure it was scary that the grass just suddenly disappeared, but they were still so far away from the obelisk. How could it possibly be dangerous to get any closer?

"One minute." said Hrefna.

One minute until what? thought Catorsia.

Suddenly, a low thrum came rising throughout the land. It shook the ground slightly, and rattled Catorsia's brain. They looked around in a bewildered panic, but saw no source of the noise.

"It's starting."

"What is? What's starting?!"

"Shh. Just wait."

Catorsia struggled against Hrefna's grip. They were suddenly having second thoughts about studying magic, and would have quite liked to go back home to Thea and enjoy a warm meal. But the old woman was shockingly strong for her age, or perhaps Catorsia was shockingly weak for theirs, and they could find no purchase against the iron vice holding them in place.

"H-Hrefna…"

"Three."

"Hrefna, let go please."

"Two."

"Hrefna!"

"One."

It was as if everything came to a stop. The roaring of the wind, and the low thrum building along the horizon, even the sound of their own voice, were suddenly cut off. The clouds in the sky and the sun shining down upon them suddenly came to a stop, as if the very world was sitting still in its orbit. For one terrible second, the entire world held its breath. And then— it screamed.

Throughout Catorsia's mind, a single voice resounded.

"DIE, IGNACIO!"

Red. The color of Destruction.

Red. It was all Catorsia could see.

The entire sky erupted into red as a beam of light entered the obelisk from the top, and exploded outwards. With it came the voice, uttering its terrible command. And all around the obelisk, for a radius of what must have been hundreds of feet, the dry ground was freshly scorched.

Catorsia shielded their eyes before the heat and intensity of the red spell surging throughout the air. This spell was more powerful than anything they had ever seen. It was a spell comprised of sheer power, the most intense that they had ever witnessed. It was no ordinary spell at all.

It was The Spell. The very same that nearly ended all life on Orium, all of those decades ago.

Just as quickly as it had come, it was over. The world sighed, and the howling wind resumed as the obelisk and the surrounding air dimmed. Catorsia gaped, still having trouble with processing the scene that had just appeared before them. They were snapped back to reality by the sound of laughter.

"HA HA! You should've seen the look on your face!" said Hrefna. "HA HA HA!"

"Wh- what was that?" asked Catorsia, ignoring Hrefna's boisterous laughter.

Hrefna wiped her eyes, and calmed down. "That," she said. "Was The Spell. That's what these obelisks are for, and why everyone tells stories about them."

"That was really it? The Spell? Like, The Spell?"

"Yup. Quite flashy, wasn't it?"

Catorsia nodded.

"I gotta tell you, it gave me a horrible fright first time I saw that. But every time after, it's just been funny. 'Specially to see my pupils seeing it for the first time."

"But… why? Why is The Spell still here?" asked Catorsia.

Hrefna thought about this, and then motioned for Catorsia to follow her. "Come on. The next surge won't be til tomorrow, so it should be safe enough by now to approach the obelisk."

With great caution, Catorsia tentatively stepped forwards and followed the elder witch.

The trek to the obelisk took another minute before they found themselves at its base. From up close, they could see that the obelisk was constructed out of an indigo stone, and etched with small white runes all the way up its length. They stared upwards, and attempted to see the top of the obelisk. It seemed that it stretched on forever…

"What is it?" they asked.

"The obelisk." said Hrefna.

"No, I mean— what is it made of?"

"Oh. Dunno. Seems to conduct magic quite well though. Take a look at it with Second Sight— you'll see something quite interesting."

Shuddering, Catorsia closed their eyes. They did not want to see what was inside of the obelisk, but felt obligated to follow the instruction of their teacher. Tentatively, they reached out for the magic… and imagined a scene.

There was a flat plane. Standing at the center of the plane, back to back, were two men, each dressed in red robes and wearing a tall hat, spangled in stars. The formal garb of the Royal Wizarding College at Erminya. For a time, the men merely stood there.

A horrible sound began to play, falling into a rhythm. The sound of the bell of a clock tower.

BONG.

The man on the right shuffled.

BONG.

"So, it's come down to this, has it?" came the voice of the man on the left.

BONG.

"Afraid so, Chancellor." answered the man on the right.

BONG.

"Well, if this is how it must be… do you have any last words, child?"

BONG.

"No. Do you?"

BONG.

"Suppose not."

BONG.

The two men stepped forwards, until they were stood at either end of the plane.

BONG.

The man on the left pulled something out of the pockets of his robes.

BONG.

The man on the right pulled something out of his robes, as well.

BONG.

The man on the left shuffled anxiously.

BONG.

For a horrible moment, there was nothing but silence, and the sound of the bell.

BONG.

"Well, this is it then. Draw, Vilmos." said the man on the left.

The two men raised their arms, and in them, held their wands. In one swift motion, they whirled around.

"DIE, IGNACIO!" yelled the man on the right. In the same moment, his arm suddenly jerked upwards, and the blast of magic struck the obelisk.

There was a horrible burst of red light.

And both men were gone.

And with them, the world. came a voice from the back of Catorsia's mind.

They snapped open their eyes, and allowed the magic in. Their eyes adjusted to the Second Sight, and with them, they stared upon the obelisk, ignoring the tears streaming down their face.

Inside of the obelisk…

Was blinding white.

The color of willpower.

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