The Rise of Oscar
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The sound of a billion voices, all speaking at once, pervades the consciousness of an unknowable entity. Sailing through the blank void that separates cosmos from cosmos, the voices chatter ceaselessly, telling tales of worlds long forgotten. Forgotten by all but one.

In the silence of the void, the Sea flows diligently towards its next meal. It slavers in anticipation, wondering what this one would taste like. What it would learn, and what it would destroy. Knowledge was all that mattered to this terrible being. Who had this knowledge mattered not to it, as long as it did.

No matter how the countless number of the worlds it has consumed grew, it was never satisfied. Never quite full. Never for long. It always needed more. It cared not that everything it learned was destroyed, reduced into an echo of itself that joined the whole. The lives of the many innocents it had destroyed all for the sake of this ceaseless hunger for knowledge were nothing to it.

The process was a long and slow one, for it could not move very far on its own. It relied on its being, an infinite well of knowledge, to entice. It had learned to lay in wait, for it knew that patience often yielded better results. When all was said and done, the world consumed, it moved on, like nothing had even happened. This process it had gone through many, many times before.

And it was excited to do it all over again.


Catorsia woke up in a cold sweat and clutched at their chest. Panting heavily, they looked around to find their bedspread totally destroyed. None of this was quite surprising, as they had just woken up from an awful dream. Their life seemed near-constantly plagued now by dreams and visions, bad omens that seemed to foretell events to come.

They hoped they were merely hallucinations. If it was only paranoia, then there would be nothing to be worried about.

But each one had seemed so incredibly real, it was impossible to convince themselves. The fact of the matter was, whether it was real or not, Catorsia was worried. There was much they did not know, many pressing questions weighing heavy on their mind.

Perhaps today would be a good time to answer some of them, they thought. It was Friday, a mere three days after the last time they had been to Hrefna's tent. Their next meeting would not be until next Tuesday. But that seemed an awful long time to wait, deliberating over nothing.

Catorsia pulled themselves out of bed, and got dressed. With a determined look in their eyes, they left their room, and walked down to the kitchen. Soon enough, the familiar smell of cooking bacon wafted into their nose; evidence that their mom was already up and breakfast was being cooked. Their stomach grumbled, and they decided it would be best to eat first before going out.

Stepping into the kitchen, they knocked three times on the door frame. It was a system the two had worked out to silently alert one another to their presence, as both Catorsia and Letha were naturally very quiet.

Letha looked up from the stove, and turned her head to see Catorsia rubbing their eyes groggily.

"Good morning, sweetie." she said. "How did you sleep?"

"Not very well," sighed Catorsia, plopping down into a chair at the table. "I had another bad dream. Woke up with my blankets all over the place and my pillow thrown across the room. The usual."

Letha leaned her head to the side and pressed it into her hand. "That sounds awful," she said. "You've been awfully restless for the past month or so, but especially after Tuesday."

"That's true." said Catorsia. "I've been having a rough time, I guess."

"You're really sure you don't want to quit doing magic, though?"

"…Yes, I'm sure. Even if things are weird and don't make a whole lot of sense right now, I really want them to make sense, you know?" said Catorsia, waving their hand idly. "It's scary, sure, but you won't get anywhere if you run away from everything that scares you. That fear of the unknown is the opposite of progress."

"I know that, honey." said Letha. "People often have to die before anything can be learned, though. I don't want you to join them."

"I'll try not to." said Catorsia, casting their eyes downwards.

There was an awkward silence for a minute or so. Then, Catorsia shook their head and decided to move on and brighten up.

"On a less depressing subject," they said. "What are you cooking over there?"

"Same thing we have every morning," said Letha. "Bacon, eggs, toast. I'm thinking it might need a little more vegetables, though…"

"Vegetables are good." said Catorsia.

"Indeed. Say, I haven't gotten to cooking the eggs yet — would you like an omelette?"

"Sure," said Catorsia. "That'd be nice."

"With cheese?"

"Sure."

Letha bustled about the kitchen, grabbing a number of spices, a fresh wheel of cheese, and some vegetables she had picked the day before. It looked like it was going to take a while, so Catorsia decided to broach the question of going out.

"So, Mom."

"Yes?" asked Letha.

"I was thinking of going back out to Hrefna's tent."

"Well, of course you're going to back there." said Letha. "You told me you want to study magic, I'm going to let you study it."

"No, not on next Tuesday, I mean."

"No?"

"Today."

"Oh."

"Would that be alright?"

"Well…" said Letha. "I suppose it would be fine. We don't have much to do today, no errands to run… I was kind of looking forwards to spending a relaxing day with you, though."

"Oh." said Catorsia.

"May I ask why?" asked Letha.

"I wanted to ask Idwal some questions."

"Really? Not Hrefna?"

"No, I don't think she would know."

"What did you want to ask Idwal about, then?"

"Mostly I wanted to ask her about what she thinks is happening. With the Chalice and how my magic is reacting and all that. She jokingly diagnosed me with a fake disease — 'hexalepsy,' — but now I'm wondering if maybe there really is something wrong with me. And I thought maybe she'd know, or be able to figure it out."

"I see," said Letha. "That does sound like quite a pressing matter. I imagine it's been weighing heavy on you."

"Yeah, a little bit." said Catorsia. "I'm sorry that I have to leave today, because hanging out with my mom sounds nice, but I'm really worried. I promise I'll be back home before dusk, though."

"Okay, honey." said Letha, as she walked over to the table with two full plates of food. "Breakfast's ready. Eat up before you go."

"Like I could ever turn your cooking down, Mom." laughed Catorsia. "You're the best cook I know."

"You flatter me." said Letha.

"It's true, though." said Catorsia, as they began to chow down on their omelette.

"Oh, hush."

Catorsia soon devoured the delicious breakfast their mother had cooked them, and moved as though to get dressed and ready to leave before realizing they had already done so. Shaking their head, they picked up their thaumaturgy books, packed a couple of snacks into a bag, and began the long walk to Hrefna's tent.


Ring-ting-a-ling-ding-ding…

Hrefna and Idwal had been engaged in chat, discussing at length their past and the changes Hrefna had experienced in the past eighty years, when they found themselves suddenly interrupted by the sound of the chimes at the front of the tent. They tingled softly all day, every day, due to the winds roaring across the plains ceaselessly, but this time was much louder.

"Darn wind's kickin' up a storm out there." grumbled Hrefna. "Maybe I oughtta get rid of them chimes after all. They're always interruptin' things, more of a bother than they're worth. I'll just rem'ber to put them up on Monday nights."

"Hrefna," said Idwal, who had paused sipping her tea and was now looking towards the front of the tent. "I don't think it's the wind this time."

"Catorsia ain't due for another couple days, so what else could it be?"

"Well, maybe if you'd look, you'd see."

"Damn it all." said Hrefna, as she craned her neck to follow Idwal's gaze. She nearly jumped back in sheer surprise to find herself eye to eye with Catorsia Cauxten, who had crept up behind her.

"Boo," they said.

"Jesus, Catorsia!" cried Hrefna, jumping back and clutching her chest for dramatic effect. "You tryna give an old woman a heart attack? This is exactly why I had them chimes installed in the first place!"

"Sorry," said Catorsia, giggling at themselves as they stood up to their full height. "It's just so much fun to creep around. My paws hardly make a sound."

"Yeah, well, you better quit your creepin', or one day I might just give you a good wallopin'. You wouldn't like that very much, now would you?" jested Hrefna.

"You know mom would kill you if you did that!" laughed Catorsia.

"Not if she din't find out, she wouldn't." jabbed Hrefna.

"I'm pretty sure she'd notice if I went missing."

Hrefna nodded. "Suppose you're right. Would be a rather neglectful mother if she din't, and that ain't anything near what Letha is."

Hrefna stared up at Catorsia, tilted her head when she found herself staring at their neck, and then looked further up to meet them back at eye level.

"Ain't used to how tall you are now, yet." she said.

"I'm still not used to being this tall." said Catorsia. "It's nice though. People don't look down on me so much anymore."

"How tall were you before?"

"Five foot four, I think. I'm now a solid five eight."

"That's quite the growth spurt." said Hrefna. "Wish I'd've gone through one like that. Now I'm just a tiny, crotchety old lady."

"I thought you were always a crotchety old lady. You telling me you ever weren't?" joked Catorsia.

"Now, come off it you." grinned Hrefna. "Course I was young once. We all were."

"Come to think of it, she did look quite the same before The Spell was cast." said Idwal, chuckling a little.

Hrefna elbowed Idwal, cutting off her laughter. "Oh, quit it you two. I'm sure Idwal's been thinkin' the same question I've been, and it's high time someone ask it rather than keep on jesting and japing at one another. Not that it hasn't been fun. So, allow me: What brings you here, Catorsia? Training ain't due for another three days."

Catorsia fumbled with their hands for a moment. "Well, you see… I've been having trouble sleeping ever since my initiation. I've been wondering about the Chalice and my reaction to its magic, and… wondering if hexalepsy is a real thing."

Idwal laughed. "What? Of course not! I just made that up."

"I know, I know," said Catorsia, "but I mean like, what if something is actually wrong with me? Like, maybe I have some kind of disorder or something fundamentally wrong with my body that made me react so wildly to the Chalice. Would you know anything about that?"

Idwal put a finger to her chin, and chewed her lip thoughtfully for a few moments. Finally, her eyes brightened as it seemed she landed upon a hypothesis.

"Tell you what, I just might. But I'm going to have to tell you a little story first — teach you about where you came from, help you understand yourself more." she said.

"Do you have to?" said Catorsia. "I mean, I like stories, but if there's an easier way to explain things, then I'd prefer that."

"Oh, of course there's an easier way, but this way will make more sense, and it will be a lot more entertaining. You told your mom you might be gone long, right?" asked Idwal.

"I didn't exactly tell her how long I'd be gone." said Catorsia. "But I've been out all day before. She'd only care if I didn't come home tonight."

"Great," said Idwal. "Plenty of time for a story, then."

"It's story time, is it?" asked Hrefna. "Well then. Mind if I fix us up some tea?"

"Not at all," said Idwal.

Hrefna grabbed her block of Earl Grey and left the tent with a familiar ring-ting-a-ling-ding-ding, and began to prepare tea.

"Make yourself comfortable," said Idwal, turning to face Catorsia.

Catorsia pulled out a blanket and set it on the floor of Hrefna's tent, just in front of Idwal, and made themselves comfortable upon it. Laying on their back with their arms folded over their chest, looking up at Idwal — it was the perfect listening position. Their ears twitched in anticipation.

"This is a story about how the Osker race came to be," said Idwal. "The origins of the people that resemble cats, yet walk on two legs and speak with human voices. This tale will be integral to understanding yourself and your magic. Or so I hope."

Catorsia nodded, signalling for her to go on, while the kettle whistled outside the tent.

"Once upon a time…" began Idwal. "There was a lonely witch named Agrona Grimhilt."


In a rundown shack, in the middle of nowhere, there lived a little witch. She quite old — far older than many of her peers — and her face had the wrinkles to show it. Gone were the days when she could be called young, gone were the days when she trained younger witches, and gone were the days when respects were not afforded to her. She was an elder witch, and her wisdom was often sought, but no one ever asked to be her apprentice, not anymore.

Though she was highly accomplished, and related to some of the most prodigal craftsmen of the world, the name of Agrona Grimhilt was known to very few. She was a humble woman, and did not take pride in popularity. Her life had been fulfilling enough, and she need not anything more than that. Well, nothing more than… a friend.

For Agrona was lonely. So very, very lonely. Her friends had all departed, long ago. Her time with them had been fulfilling, and every second of her memory of those times were treasured. The end of her life was soon approaching, and she knew she'd be with everyone she'd ever known soon enough. She accepted, even embraced, her own death. And yet… that ache in her heart persisted.

One fateful night, Mrs. Grimhilt got a knock upon her door. People rarely came to visit her anymore, unless it were the post or the milkman, and so this came as quite a shock.

With trepidation, the ancient witch answered the door, and found herself face to face with a young woman. Her hair was inky black and curled, and her skin was quite dark as well. Her eyes stuck out the most, shining pink in the light of Chalcum. The young woman asked Agrona a question, one simple question, that changed her life.

"Hello, Mrs. Grimhilt. Will you take me on as your apprentice?"

Agrona accepted the apprenticeship, and began to train the young woman. Soon, she became an accomplished witch herself, almost strong enough to match Agrona. The two got along like two peas in a pod, and the young woman was a very quick and enthusiastic learner.

But that isn't the point of this story. We're not here to talk at length about the life and times of one Idwal Carnicelli. No, no, that was merely the introduction. For something Idwal did eventually led up to the creation of the race of oskers.

There's a concept in witchcraft that is not often used. Witches are by nature lone wolves, and tend to confide in very few people. For those who find themselves unable to confide in anyone, there exists Familiars. Any ordinary animal can become a Familiar, as the process is quite simple — and completely painless, in case you were worried.

All a witch must do is adopt an animal, it can be any animal, and love it and nurture it with the utmost of care. Eventually, the witch will form an unbreakable bond, and they shall imbue their pet with their very magic, transforming it from one of nature's beasts into a Familiar: a being of pure magic that superficially resembles an ordinary animal, for it once was.

Idwal noticed that Agrona seemed rather lonely, and would perk up quite considerably whenever she came around to train. So, Idwal got a brilliant idea, and got Agrona a pet. He was a wily little black cat that Agrona named Oscar, after her late grandfather. Agrona loved that cat, and lavished it all upon him, spoiling Oscar rotten. His transformation into a Familiar was so swift that neither witch had hardly noticed it happen.

One day, Idwal's training was complete. She left the rundown shack of Agrona Grimhilt, and took with her an artifact — a sacred object passed for generations among witches that was last in the care of her master. You know it well, as the Chalice of Chalcum. Idwal forged her own path in life, getting caught up with her own magical research. It would be a while before Agrona saw her again.

Though the last few years had been quite nice, Agrona once again felt a pit in her stomach. The loneliness that had so plagued her was back, with a vengeance. She confided in Oscar, but eventually even his company was not enough — for he was just a cat, and had little to offer to human conversation.

Then, a thought occurred to her. What if Oscar could offer something to human conversation, after all? It didn't take long for Agrona to begin studying the many theories of form-changing with magic, and prepare a ritual that would transform her faithful Familiar from the from of an ordinary cat into that of a man. Magic is a very mutable thing — its mind can be easily changed, and its form bent to suit one's needs, so long as your will is strong enough to handle it.

And strong her mind was. The ritual was a complete success, and Oscar the black cat Familiar soon became Oscar the human man. Agrona was elated to finally have another person to confide in once again. But her excitement would be short-lived. For Oscar was excited too — not for conversation, but for the prospect of human freedom.

The next night, as Agrona fell asleep, Oscar Grimhilt silently escaped the rundown shack in the middle of nowhere, and tore off into the countryside. Agrona was heartbroken, and spent many weeks unable to get out of bed. How could her Familiar betray her trust so easily? What had she ever done to deserve such chronic loneliness? She didn't know.

And Oscar didn't care.

(include more here)


"The end," said Idwal, closing her eyes with a self-assured smile. "I hope that little tale was informative."

Idwal opened her eyes to find that Catorsia had fallen asleep, and was already snoring.

"Zzzzz…" said Catorsia.

"Darn thing's fallen asleep," muttered Hrefna. "And you were telling such a great tale, too. Guess it got a little long-winded for them."

Idwal sighed, and tapped on their shoulder. "Catorsia. Catorsia! Wake up."

"Mm… wh— huh?" asked Catorsia, as their eyes flickered open. "Oh, um… sorry?" they asked with a grin, their ears flattening against their head.

"Tsk, tsk." said Idwal, flicking her tongue. "No matter. The point of the story was this: your race, oskers, are a combination of Familiar and man. That means that half of you is essentially made out of raw magic. That's possibly why you reacted so strongly to the Chalice of Chalcum."

"Oh," said Catorsia. "Isn't that like, really dangerous? Like, magic is a volatile and chaotic thing, as Hrefna drilled into my head, and you're telling me I'm just kind of… made of it?"

"I'm not sure," said Idwal, "but you seem to have been managing well before you started studying magic. The magic you're made of is a bit separate from The Tree, it's pretty much it's own thing. Think of it like this: your body, the vessel, is acting as a battery for raw magic, and that raw magic makes up part of your being. It's the same deal with a Familiar; they're just a battery for the magic that makes up what they are."

"So we're kind of… free agents?" asked Catorsia.

"If you want to think of all magic as a hivemind, then sure. You're a completely separate pocket of magic that's been detached from The Tree." said Idwal.

"That's wild." said Catorsia.

"Indeed it is." agreed Idwal.

"So, if I'm practically made out of raw magic… do you think The Tree would ever want to like, call me back or something?" asked Catorsia.

"Well, it's producing a lot of magical sap everyday, I don't think it really needs to bring you back into it. It's replaced you a hundred thousand times over by now."

"Ouch," said Catorsia.

"But though The Tree won't call you back, it does seem that you and oskers in general have a higher interest in and a higher propensity for magic. As far as I know — correct me if I'm wrong, Hrefna — you're the first osker to actually become a fully fledged wizard or witch."

"That's right," said Hrefna, sipping idly on her tea. "Would be a major boasting achievement, were there anyone left to boast about it to."

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