This story began as a sort of question of the differance between science and magic and whether magic that has rules you can learn and understand is really magic. it uses a few of those ideas, but I realized as I was working on it that wasn't really the story I was writing. Instead this is about power and the dangers of any one person having too much power.
Marrillo looked read the dusty, leather bound book more carefully while he looked over his notes. This had to be wrong. These were the same spells and ideas wizards had been using for a thousand years. It simply wasn’t possible they had missed the connections.
The only explanation he had was that every wizard was taught from his first lesson as a child that magic had no order or set rules. Spells random ordering of chaos and the only way to discover more were the random trials and errors which made up most of a wizard’s time when there was no war.
Now though he had found an order. The beginnings of a set of rules that would allow each discovery to effect a dozen spells. More importantly he could change spells and learn the types of spells he wanted to know and as he learned learning more might become easier. All the things any wizard had ever wanted.
He considered rushing to the elders, but knew he needed proof. He was only eighty so considered young and reckless making it easy to dismiss his ideas. That made the choice of what to do next easy. He would prove his ability by adjusting one of the more useful spells. Logins Longsight allowed a wizard to see much farther than a normal made could. It took almost four years of experiments using all of his spare time but he created two new spells. The first allowed him to look at something far too small to see and the other to look through things. Not as useful as the original, but they proved his point.
Then elder wizard Erdorn approached him. The third oldest of wizards in this part of the world he had survived six wars and nine centuries.
“We have been watching you,” the legendary wizard said, walking into Marrillo’s private home without warning or introduction. “I don’t understand,” Marrillo said. Lying to a wizard was always a bad idea, but they tended to assume ignorance so it was worth a try. “I’ve met far better liars than you,” Erdorn said, but he sounded amused not angry.
“It’s just research,” Marrillo said.
“Exceptionally dangerous research. Still, all I need is assurances that you’re not going to go public,” Erdorn said. Much of the humor was out of his voice. They knew and they wanted to keep that knowledge to themselves.
“We could make the world better,” Marrillo said.
“Or far worse. Wizards are already powerful think about how much more powerful they could become. What happens when men become powerful enough to bury cities under stone or kill men anywhere in the world with a ten minute spell?” Erdorn said.
It had never occurred to Marrillo. A wizard could already hold off an army if prepared, but if caught unaware a dozen angry men could kill even an elder wizard.
“We could remove the dangerous people. There have to be ways to remove the most dangerous,” Marrillo said. “Leaving more power in even fewer hands. It is too dangerous,” Erdorn said, and his voice made it clear the discussion was over.
“Can I continue my studies?” Marrillo asked.
“So long as no one knows we encourage it. Simply report your discoveries to the elders so we can determine which spells should be added to the books of magic,” Erdorn said. Time passed quickly for Marrillo who cut out everything in his life but preparation for when he betrayed the wizards. They could not be allowed to keep the rest of the world in a constant cycle of devastating wars simply because they wanted to keep power and he wouldn’t let them.
His only breaks were the letters he wrote. Vague letters that asked the same questions which had led him to ordered magic. If the elder’s checked his mail they may be upset but he didn’t think they would care. The questions weren’t answers and they could always threaten the wizards he contacted as well. Worse, there was no sign that anyone had understood the questions meant anything.
Erdorn also appeared every few months. He walked into Marrillo’s home without invitation and left just as abruptly. More than once he had come into the house, watched Marrillo without a word then left while other times he asked strange questions and once simply made tea. Then, as he had gotten used to the strange visits Erdorn changed. He walked into the room and said, “There will be a war in three months. You should prepare defenses.”
That knowledge should be impossible, but who knew. Even the future might not be beyond their sight
He spent the next three months in defensive research. He had never studied more than the basics of defense, but his abilities had grown in the last decade and he created the shields quickly. The wizards had been right. In three months the war began, though it started with rumors and the real slaughters didn’t happen until months later. The spells used were of the classic disordered type, at least on the surface. That didn’t make them any less devastating though. Fires appeared out of nowhere burning down city blocks while across the town a creature appeared killed one hundred men with a strange blue sword and then disappeared.
As much as Marrillo hated the war it sped up his research. The restricted books were open and no research was limited though he continued to focus on defense.
The war lasted four years and killed three quarters of the inhabitants of the city. That was no surprise. The wizards didn’t care if people died unless so many were killed it interrupted the wizard’s research. In fact having twenty five percent of the citizens alive when the war was over was a victory. There were likely no survivors in the other city, beyond the elder wizards who could defend themselves.
During that time he created the perfect defensive spell. A bubble of altered reality. Small, but the size could be changed easily and inside the rules of the world could be anything he wanted including completely safe from magic. That magic couldn’t be used there didn’t mean he was helpless. This was a dreaming world and so long as he believed he could control it as a dream which was often far more powerful than magic, but limited to being inside that bubble.
As the war drew to a close he began to write out letters to every wizard he had ever met. If this worked he could be starting another war weeks after the last had ended and that could destroy the world. There was also a reasonable chance that it would just get a lot of people killed and do nothing worthwhile, but he had to try.
Three days after the letters were mailed Erdorn walked into his house. Marrillo rushed toward his sanctuary but as he reached out for the ragged edge of reality a spell grabbed him and pulled him back.
“Do you know what you have done?” Erdorn asked, as he lifted the helpless Marrillo into the air. “I defied you,” Marrillo said, one last war, one last battle and whether they won or lost the elder’s power should be broken.
“Wizards, good wizards, all over the world are dying. Some are elder wizards, but far more are children unable to understand the power you tried to give them. I kill three innocent men last night because of you.
“You could trust them and see what happened,” Marrillo said.
“It’s not that easy. Ordered magic will give wizards too much power and create an eternal slave race because those without magic will be little more than animals.”
The truth of the wars, and even the reasons the wizard had known the war was coming struck Marrillo. “You kill them because wizard’s children usually have magic,” Marrillo said. It was disgusting, but it made sense. The wizard’s wars almost never killed wizards because it wasn’t really a war; it was an excuse for genocide.
“Far more would die otherwise. A wizard can live forever, we can eliminate old age, eliminate poverty and inequality. We can turn this world into a paradise,” Erdorn said.
“It’s still mass murder,” Marrillo said.
“What other option do we have?” Erdorn asked and it really sounded as if he might want one.
“We could leave,” Marrillo said.
“We’ve considered it, but more wizards will be born and many won’t want to leave. It could make the problem worse.”
“What if we could go away without leaving?” Marrillo said, suddenly recognizing a solution.
“What do you mean?”
“I created a spell to defend myself. A bubble where reality is different. In it I am a dreamer, but for everyone else magic ceases to exist,” Marrillo said.
“And you have to have a dreamer?”
“Without magic it is the only way to control the reality though once it exists no one would be needed,” Marrillo said. He understood though, he couldn’t be trusted any more than anyone else.
“You could kill me, but you won’t have magic while mine will be practically instinctual,” Marrillo said. If he were free he could do it without telling anyone, he might even become a sort of god, but he would need Erdorn to release him.
“A strong poison could solve that problem. You take the poison then expand the bubble to cover everything,” Erdorn said.
The poison was not a problem. Many of the ingredients that he used were poisonous; it was only a matter of ensuring death while giving him enough time to complete the plan. Erdorn choose and after Marrillo had drunk the poison released him and walked into the bubble with him and moments later magic bother ordered and chaotic were gone.