THE CHRONICLES OF GOZER
Lord of the Steady Wind
She gestured. An arc of sheer telekinetic force, driven by hate, sprang forth. The aqua blue energies crashed against an invisible barrier. The target was pushed back, but the field held.
Her opponent was a slightly scrawny man, with wild brown hair and an eccentric wardrobe: a long, violet coat, khaki pants, a floppy blue tie with matching shoes, and a lapel pin sporting a runic symbol resembling a backwards capital "P"
"It is not for you to decide, Lady Scorpio..." the man said, his voice firm. "And I have the utmost faith in those who will determine the future..."
"Don't call me that!!!" she howled. "I refuse to be bound by the games you and the others play!!!" This time the blast came from underneath, catching him off guard. The force drove him upward; a second telekinetic blast caught him full force, throwing him a good fifty meters into one of the numerous outcroppings dotting the dismal landscape. "I am the Herald of Gozer!!"
She flew in for the kill.
"You'll have to try harder than that." he sneered.
A blitzkrieg of violet electricity burst from the heavens, slamming her to the ground just as harshly.
Her opponent stood, gripping his oak staff. It curved, resembling a shepherd's crook--or a giant question mark.
"Very well then, Archmage..." she said, dusting herself off. "Your efforts will count for naught. The Destructor will have his revenge at long last."
"That remains to be seen."
"Serti de foedus fumus!" Fallagar shouted. The Herald pushed the resulting cloud of foul, violet smoke aside with her telekinetic field, but it was just a feint...
"Incurrere de irati venti!"
The second spells slammed into the telekinetic field, pushing it violently enough to move the Herald and break her concentration. The field went down and she hit an outcropping, hard.
She chuckled as she stood back up.
"Tell me, 'Lord Aquarius'..." she sneered, accenting the last two words into a curse. "Suppose you destroy me...what would that mean to your fabled 'Ascension'...What damage to the cause you and the other deluded fools have spent centuries, even millenia, chasing?"
"Significantly less than if we let you accomplish what you're trying to do!" he retorted.
"Idiot! How do you know that?! How do you know that yours isn't the darker cause--that the defense of this diseased, hateful world is the true evil?"
"Only one of us wants to destroy six billion innocent men, women, and children--I'd say which one is 'evil' is in very little doubt."
She howled and his vision was filled with an aqua blue light, and his head protested as though it had been hit by a hammer.
"Even your power is not enough to resist mine...all minds are an open book to me...even yours." she taunted. "I see it in you...the pain...even after eight hundred years, you still can't let go of her memory, can you?"
"You and I are more alike than you realize...it is our nature, I suppose." She emitted a dry chuckle. "After all, you, I, the Harlot of Venus, and the Son of the Rising Sun are the Steady Ones, are we not?"
"Merlin stopped The Traveller all of those years ago." she continued. "Merlin is beyond my reach now, but his heirs--your Order of Hermes--have earned my hate in his place. One of your deluded circle helped found it. Three others have or are serving it. But you, Archmage, were raised and nurtured by it. You embody it like none other. Destroying you will be the closest I will ever get to destroying the bastard Merlin himself!!!"
"Just as you still carry the pain of your lost love...I still burn for my revenge. Fourteen hundred years...a million...however long it takes!!!"
"Get. Out. Of My. Head!!!" Fallagar snarled, and a blast of violet light played about.
The Herald's posture changed. It actually betrayed a bit of surprise.
"Mentem is my art, as well, Lady of the Steady Waters." he stated calmly. That calm, combined with the honorific she so hated, only seemed to enrage her further.
She screamed a feral, sixth century Gaelic battle cry and charged, a shimmering, aqua blue scythe appearing in her grip. Her first strike cleaved Fallagar's oak staff--it was nothing but an oak staff, after all--in two. He evaded the second strike.
The third struck true, straight through the power of his Parma, severing his right arm just below the shoulder.
He fought the shock. It wasn't the first time in eight hundred years he'd been deprived of that limb--it had been a while, but compared to the experience of being roasted by the Zodiac Lords twice in one day, he was still far ahead of the curve.
There was a flash of violet light from the severed limb. Expecting some sort of trick, or a booby trap, she glanced at the flying limb for only a fraction of a second.
That fraction of a second was all Fallagar needed. His left hand shot out, a swirling arc of electric force appearing in the palm of his hand. He slammed it into the Herald, her body writhed as the lightning tore through her, causing her, for a few seconds, to glow like a light bulb, her skeleton visible through her flesh and smouldering robes.
The flash of violet light had been the ring on Fallagar's right hand leaving it. As a creation of ancient magic, it was linked to his life force--when the arm it was attached to was removed, it returned to him by that magic, and was now on the middle finger of his left hand.
A globe of elements began to vibrate. The whine of the attached cyclotrons reached deafening intensity...
Matter and anti-matter. Fire, Earth, Water, and Air. Science and Magic. All met, for a fraction of a second, in a metaphysical orgy of conflicting forces, pushing against each other and all around them...
...Reaching an indescribable climax that had reality itself howling an orgasm of pain as it was ripped apart.
NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! A horror shouted, as the very fabric of its dark realm began to shred, the shockwave of force spreading from the temple in which the creature's black heart lay.
The shock wave slammed into it, blasting the monster apart, like a sand sculpture in a wind tunnel.
The Lord of the Steady Wind stood there, expression more serene, as another blast of pure electric force arced and swirled in his outstretched left hand.
She suddenly turned, as the skies were filled by white light.
"NO!!!" she howled.
"Fulmenius gladio!!!" he shouted, driving the attack home.
She stood shocked--in more than one way--for a moment, she looked less angry, less inhuman...and more like a frightened child. She didn't resist as the lightning blade tore into her abdomen...
I told you they would do it...
The man called Zandrik Fallagar allowed himself just a second of satisfaction as the white light consumed them both...
Friedrich? Yes...I know that name. Three Holy Roman Emperors. Friedrich the First was an ally of Albert the Bear...Albrecht Der Bär...and there was another Friedrich...the son of another Albert...Friedrich Askanier...I know that name...
His senses slowly awoke...and all it brought to him was pain. A void of incandescent white light. Adrift in a sea of light and pain.
Something appeared in the swirls of light. A shape...human...unadorned with clothing...Realization gripped him, sending a jolt through his body. He knew the cut of that chestnut hair. The curve of her shoulders. The voice that he had only heard in his most bitter and wistful of dreams for the last eight centuries.
"I am here, Friedrich...my Beloved..."
"It's been too long...too many years...eight centuries..."
"Time passes differently here, Beloved...but I have longed for you as well..."
"So...tired...I don't know how the others did it."
"You talk as though your time is done, Friedrich."
"Isn't it? Haven't I earned it? I've walked the world for eight hundred and twenty-seven years...I've seen it transformed from a feudal, superstitious charnel house to one with more promise--but more death--than you could have ever imagined possible. I have seen men walk on Luna itself, and seen men destroy thousands from afar for nothing but Caesar's renderings. I have seen our world view redefined, taking it from the unmoving center of God's creation to just another blue dustspeck circling an ordinary Sun on the outskirts of a galaxy indistinguisable from uncountable others."
"A mind born of human womb was not designed for this...let this madness end...let me be free of this servitude to a cause I don't even understand..."
He felt the sting of the tears coming from his eyes, the salt burning his exposed, raw flesh.
"Let me be with you at last..."
She was atop him now, her eyes so close...she was as beautiful as he remembered her, so beautiful it made his heart ache with longing. She touched him...her body was pressed up against his, and he felt no pain. "Were that it would be that way, Friedrich."
"Haven't I earned this rest?!"
"Many times over, Beloved. Just as your mentor has earned it ten times over from you...as has Chiron, as has the Forever Swimmer who has seen this world almost from the time of Creation itself."
"But yours is not the lot of other mortals, Friedrich. You are the Lord of the Steady Wind. Yours is the Age that is now started--the Age of Aquarius. The Age in which the Circle has become complete."
"Complete...I thought as such...but what does it all mean?"
"That, Beloved, I cannot answer."
He closed his eyes and grimaced. She was right...she had always been right...even when he wished she were not.
"In the arts of Astrology, Aquarius is the sign of the Waterbearer, pouring knowledge on the world around him. He is the sign of the Fixed Air." She took his face in her hands. "Your birthright is Willpower, Zandrik Fallagar; the Steady Wind is the metaphor for the resolute mind. You are the High Mage of the Children of Zodiac. You are the one who has been chosen to lead them into their Ascension. It is your destiny."
"Destiny...a word I grow tired of hearing..." He replied bitterly.
She kissed him. It was the most beautiful feeling he'd experienced in eight centuries...he felt her strength flow into him, with all of the love shining from her soul.
"Someday, Friedrich, your task will be complete. Your days will end. And on that day, I will be awaiting you...awaiting you in the eternity we will spend together, making your long days--even if they last another million years--seem but a moment longer..."
"For you..." he finally answered. "For you, I will do this. For our love...I will go on..."
"And for our love...I will wait...I will wait as long as it takes..."
The world solidified around him. It was familiar...but he could not place it.
He screamed in agony, as his body painfully undulated, knitting itself back together.
When the last spasms subsided, he sat up.
"My own bedroom..." he realized. "At Valnastium..."
The violet glow caught his eye. He looked to see the ring she had given him so long ago, waiting. As a creation of ancient magic, it had disappeared at the moment it would have been destroyed--and awaited his return.
He slowly reached for it, with his newly regenerated right arm. Upon placing it back on his finger, he felt the same warmth as he had in limbo. She would be with him forever, in spirit if not in body.
He collapsed onto the bed, and was asleep before his head even made contact with the pillow.
He got up slowly, his limbs a little wobbly. He reached up to feel a considerable beard on his face. How long was I out?
He looked out the window. The world is still here. The Destructor and the madwoman who served him failed. He smiled. As I knew they would.
He finally turned to face the small trinket Lord Libra had given him at the last Centuriad: an electronic clock that currently read "17:13:11-CAP:17-AQU" "Seventeen?!" he said aloud with a start. The seventeenth year of the Age of Aquarius began in March of 2007...the eleventh day of Capricorn would be January 1, 2008.
"Nearly four years..." he mused to himself. He would have to eventually contact Lady Enlightenment, and Morgond, but not yet. "Heh. Happy New Years..."
A black cat stared at him from a chair. It stood up and stretched, yawning as though bored.
"Well, of course you're here..." Fallagar remarked fondly, scratching the cat's head. "One would almost think you were my familiar..." She wasn't, of course. In fact, the one with whom the cat had bonded had passed from the world of the living over a decade.--he corrected himself, over a decade and a half--ago. It was highly unusual for a familiar to outlive their magus--but this wasn't an ordinary cat, was it?
Her name was Tarantula, and she was the familiar of the late Phineus Eventide, Prince of Warlocks and Primus of House Criamon. But even before becoming a mage's familiar, she was exceptional: a genuine creature of magic, descended from the Black Lineage--a line of magical cats all descended from the familiar of House Jerbiton's Founder.
Zandrik Fallagar had discovered early in his life he was somehow unable to forge the three chords necessary to bind a familiar. It was something in his nature, he supposed--only one of the Children of Zodiac had ever bound a familiar, and while the method she invented proved usable by other magi (it was the basis of the binding method the Order of Hermes had used since it's founding) none of the others of their select circle had found themselves able to use it.
We are alone...always. That is our destiny. He shook his head, conscious of the feel of the ring.
His musing was interrupted by the opening of the door, and a yelp. "By the Gods!" a female voice called out.
He looked to see a young woman of African descent--probably an apprentice, he mused--standing there, shocked. "I don't believe I have had the honor?" he said, bowing.
"I...er, Master Fallagar, I..." Her face was darkening from a flush.
"Oh." he realized. Every stitch of clothing he'd been wearing during the battle with the Herald had been burned away in the vortex of light. "Perhaps that would explain the discomfort, yes?"
The apprentice nodded briskly.
"If you could leave me for a few minutes to dress, then?"
She bowed. "I am under orders to report to the Prima should there be any change to your condition, Master Fallagar. I would say this qualifies." She left hurredly.
It was a Hermetic robe, of the style common in House Jerbiton at the time of his apprenticeship over eight hundred years before; dyed indigo by woad, with an electric blue hooded cloak clasped at the left shoulder by a broach bearing his Hermetic mark, a runic symbol resembling a backwards capitol "P".
"I'm getting nostalgic in my old age." he stated flatly. Tarantula rolled her eyes.
A descendant of that soldier had, in turn, been one of the Founders of the Order of Hermes, and had made the center of his House--it's Domus Magna--at his childhood home.
You will find the Prima in the Library... Fallagar had been told. To get to the Library required going through the grand Garden, however. He stopped for a moment, simply to take in the grand sight, and remember...
"This...this is far grander than anything back home in Brandenburg..." the seven year old boy said with honest wonder.
Delphia Caprica, Maga of Jerbiton, grinned her enigmatic grin at him. "One of the simpler magics, Young One. You will learn far greater ones in time--you've already proven quite adept at Auram magic. But come...a new Primus guides the House now, and I have been sadly tardy at paying my respects to him..."
In the center of the garden, a statue that had not yet been erected in the Twelfth Century: a handsome, bearded man dressed in fine robes. A crown was on his head. In his right hand, a sword turned downward. In his left, a jewel box clutched to his heart. Inscribed on the bottom, in Latin, were a name and dates..
Jerbiton...The Founder... Fallagar remarked to himself. You taught us to live Beautifully...But how is one supposed to do that in a world that has grown so Ugly?
It was there that Fallagar found Maraksha Kashaf, the current Prima of House Jerbiton.
He bowed gracefully. "Zandrik Fallagar, Filius of Delphia Caprica, Follower of Jerbiton, Archmagus of the Order of Hermes, reporting as requested, Milady."
"I would think after so many centuries you would be tired of such formality, Archmage." the woman chuckled as he kissed her hand. She was a woman of Middle Eastern descent, with the appearance of someone in their early fifties--though Fallagar knew she was only twelve years away from her two hundredth birthday.
"Sometimes, Milady Prima, I think adherance to familiar ritual is what provides some sense of grounding after so long."
"Well taken." she nodded. "The beard is different, but strangely suited to you. It adds age to your face--you look all of forty now, Archmage." she added just a bit impishly.
He managed a dry chuckle. "Some may find it undue complaint, but believe me--there are times where one's pride is wounded when being treated as a stripling by mundanes who look their true age, but are in truth barely a twentieth my own.'
Kashaf turned and closed the tome she had been consulting. "Despite the smoothness to your features, Archmage, the age shows in your eyes. I see the same depth as those of the Magus Dominus...it is there you can see that your years match his own."
"Well, other than the fact I have slept a number of them away." he mused. "How long ago did I appear here?"
"It was at the Summer Solstice of 14 Aquarius...only a few weeks after the...events in the Stonehenge Tribunal. One of the groundskeepers saw a flash of white light from within the domicile, and we all felt the surge of Divine power. When we investigated, we found you--and Primus Eventide's familiar, who hissed at anyone who approached you."
" 'Divine' power?" Fallagar raised an eyebrow.
"Whatever the case, when I reported it to Morgond, he asked that we merely keep an eye on you, and tell noone else that you had returned. He believed it would be better that way--that if you recovered, you could inform those you wished in person, and if you did not..."
"Yes..." he sat down. "The others, Lady Maraksha. Lady Enlightenment, Dr. Belmont. Albrecht. How did they fare?"
"There were losses, of course." Kashaf responded, eyes downcast. "But the three you mention by name all returned alive. Dr. Belmont was cleared of all of the charges levelled against him, and both he and Lady Enlightenment recieved personal commendations from the Magus Dominus. Primus Aram grumbled a bit about it all, but under the circumstances..."
"No doubt." Fallagar nodded. "He's been distrustful of Dr. Belmont's allies from the first--a bunch of 'Mad Etherites messing around with things best left to the experts' as he said at the Special Tribunal."
"The Magus Dominus made it a point that he was, despite being Primus of Tytalus, not to be told of your return." Kashaf noted, stroking Tarantula, who was soaking in the adoration. "His disdain for you is deep--he is not convinced you are who you say you are."
"And you, Lady Maraksha?" Fallagar asked, looking up at her. "In twenty one...twenty five years, I've never asked what you, the Prima of Jerbiton, the one who would have the most to gain--or lose--from my presence. Who do you think I am?"
"The words of Master Morgond and Master Porthos, who knew Archmage Fallagar before he disappeared, are enough for me." Kashaf replied evenly. "They convince me your are who you say you are--they do not convince Master Aram, though perhaps it is to be expected. He leads a House that has become more disciplined since even the days of my apprenticeship, but it is still House built on gaining power through deceit and manipulation. He is convinced you are thus decieving and manipulating us all--that you are a changeling imposter, of the likes of Quendalon."
Fallagar sighed, a looked down again. "At times I'm not sure he's completely wrong..."
Kashaf said nothing.
Fallagar continued "There were those that thought Quendalon was not an imposter, but yet not truly Quendalon. That the Becoming, Quendalon's inner mystery of immortality, cast the original soul of the body onto it's final reward, and allowed a Faerie essence to posess the discarded shell. Not truly the magus who Became, but a spirit of the Fae who perhaps even thought they were the magus, though they were not."
"I sometimes wonder if I am something of like nature. That the man who was born into this body left this world long ago...that I'm nothing but a shade, an Incarna--what we called 'daimons' back in my day--a daimon of the Zodiac force that merely thinks it's Zandrik Fallagar."
Maraksha Kashaf stood up and walked over to him, arms crossed, She kneeled before him, making eye contact for the first time. "Fine then. Suppose you are just an incarna. Then I suppose the question you must ask yourself is this: Why? Why would this incarna of the Zodiac force select, from all of the men who had lived before or since, the form of the man named Zandrik Fallagar?"
The Lord of the Steady Winds realized that, in eight centuries, that was the one question he'd never asked.
Her senses startled. There was something here--something causing the tingling sensation of magic interacting with her defenses. Something familiar.
"Er, nothing, Mom...look, I'm home now, so I better let you go. Best to Dad and Sis, all right?" With a last goodbye, she disconnected the line.
Elizabeth Hawthorne Stantz opened the door to her apartment, and her heart leaped to her throat when she saw Zandrik Fallagar sitting patiently on the couch.
"I realize letting myself in is rather gauche, Lady Enlightenment, but I thought under the circumstances I could be forgiven."
She set the bag of groceries down, and scratched her forehead right under the auburn patch of hair on her left temple. "I don't know whether I want to squeal with relief or throttle you for making me worry like that!!! It's been almost four years! We all thought you were dead!"
"I very nearly was, Elizabeth." Zandrik replied, bringing a banana to him with just a gesture. "Even a Childe of Zodiac has a point of no return, and I very nearly crossed it."
"The Herald?" Liz asked.
Zandrik shook his head. "I cannot say for certain. I remember nothing of her after I was engulfed in the white light. But if I survived, I have little doubt she has as well."
"All because of the Prophesy, right?" Liz exhaled, sitting down. "I..." she started to say, then bit her lip.
Fallagar noticed, and looked at her quizzically.
"Years ago, that Prophesy came up on one of Ray's cases. But...I can't tell you more. Not without betraying a personal confidence."
"Then say nothing." Fallagar said gently. "How is Eric doing?"
Liz's eyes lit up at the name in the way only a proud mother's could. "He's doing quite well in his classes. Gets along well with others. He's absolutely thrilled that they're showing new Digimon episodes. And..." she looked into Fallagar's eyes. "He manifested the Gift during the Gozer crisis, when the Herald had invaded the Firehouse. He and John Spengler suddenly teleported to her, and nearly stopped her."
"Johnathan Spengler?" Fallagar's eyebrow raised. "Fascinating."
There was a moment of awkward silence.
"The Gift runs strong in your bloodline, Elizabeth, but quietly. The Gentle Gift is harder to detect, but prized--as both of us are well aware."
"Eric has been accepted to Rein•Hagen Academy." Liz said, the smile unavoidable. "If he proves as apt as Ray and I expect he well, when he graduates he'll be brought into the Order. Paired with an experience magus who will open his Arts and initiate him into the complexities of Magic Theory and spellcasting."
"Excellant." Fallagar nodded. "Back in my day, an apprentice trained with their parens for fifteen years. Of course, most of the difference is owed to the tremendous advances in the educational system."
"I wasn't around as much as I'd have liked when Eric was younger." Liz said, a somewhat regretful tone to her voice. "Quaesitorial business kept me away so much...it seemed like for so long every time anything important happened to Eric--or his father--I wasn't there. I'm making that up to him by being here for him now: I've accepted a position as an assistant instructor on the Rein•Hagen staff. Their last House Guernicus evaluation councillor was promoted to the Magvillus Council last fall, and there was an opening in the staff. I'll be there for him at last."
"I'm glad to hear that." Fallagar nodded. "Will this cause any problems for Raymond?"
"Well, there is a Mercere Portal at Rein•Hagen." she said with a sly smile. "Faculty do get favored access to it."
"And where are Raymond and Eric now?"
"They're out 'running errands', which means they're birthday shopping." Liz answered.
"Of course." Fallagar nodded. "February 11th. How old will you be again?"
Fallagar sighed wistfully. "Did I ever tell you that February 11th was also my birthday? Brandenburg, Germany. February 11th, 1177. Tomorrow I will be eight hundred and thirty one years old." He smirked. "So I don't want to hear any complaints about turning forty six."
She looked a little shocked. "Wow. No. You never did tell me..I mean, I knew your birthday had to be close by, but..."
"Though I suppose technically since Pope Gregory the Thirteenth reformed the calendar in 1582, I should wait until the 18th to celebrate....but I'm too used to using the 11th." He looked thoughful. "I would have turned forty six in 1223...five years before the Seventeenth Grand Tribunal...not nearly as exciting as when I turned 40, and Salamandros put on a firework show that nearly set half the Bavarian forest on fire."
"Would it help if I said you don't look a day over 750?"
Fallagar laughed deep and hard. Liz was a little unnerved--she couldn't remember ever hearing him do that. It was as disconcerting as the first time she heard Egon Spengler belly-laugh.
"Treasure every moment, Elizabeth." he said, calming down. "A spouse and a child are the greatest treasures any man or woman can have. A treasure that not all have the honor of sharing as they should. Modern longevity potions can enable you to live another six hundred years--but never forget the preciousness of every second."
He kissed her gently on the cheek. "You're leaving so soon?" she asked. "I'm sure Ray would be thrilled to see..."
"I don't doubt it." he nodded. "Tell him I was here, and that I am back amongst the living. But for now...there is still much that calls for my attention."
He'd grappled with that question...unable to answer it. Where was Phineus with his Enigmatic Wisdom when I truly need it?
He looked to the Dolomites, shining in the afternoon light.
He thought of Lady Maraksha's mention of "Divine" power returning him to Valnastium.
He thought of the vision of Elsa while he was in the light.
"Your birthright is Willpower, Zandrik Fallagar; the Steady Wind is the metaphor for the resolute mind. You are the High Mage of the Children of Zodiac. You are the one who has been chosen to lead them into their Ascension. It is your destiny."
And it all came together.
I am Zandrik Fallagar. Elsa would not appear to me if I was a doppleganging daimon. Not with the Divine sanctioning it.
I was born Friedrich of Brandenburg, Scion of House Askania. I was trained in the magic arts by Delphia Caprica, in truth Delphia Tesmihirus, the last survivor of ancient Atlantis. I was inducted into the philosophy of Flavius Ierbitonis, into the arts of Bonisagus of Florence, forged from the wisdom of far-flung, diverse magical traditions.
I am the pinnacle of millenia of magic thought. From the spellsingers of lost Atlantis, to the cults of Thoth, Hermes, and Mercury. The inheritors of Merlin. The legacy of Rome, and Constantinople.
Valnastium resides in the Ierbii valley...the Valley of Yesterday--and I am the man of every Yesterday.
But I am also Lord Aquarius. My sigil is the sign of the Future. I am the man of Yesterday--and the man of Tomorrow.
What that tomorrow will bring, I cannot say...but I will face it without fear.
Some material previously appeared in Chronicles of Gozer Book Six: Exaltation
Thanks to Vincent Belmont for invaluable help on the Latin invocations
Tarantula created by James Van Hise and Howard Bender; she first appeared in Now Comics The Real Ghostbusters #12
Ars Magica and the Order of Hermes created by Johnathan Tweet and Mark Rein•Hagen; previously owned by Lion Rampant and White Wolf Games, now owned by Atlas Games. Descriptions of Valnastium inspired by the writings of Timothy Ferguson in Sanctuary of Ice: The Greater Alps Tribunal and Houses of Hermes: Societates. Prima Maraksha Kashaf and Primus Aram Marangoudakis based on characters mentioned in White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension Tradition book Order of Hermes