The Magus

The Magus

A Portrait

by Dominika Lein

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Part I

The Magus knew what he ought not to know. He’d been trained in all orders with a range of titles. The hoop earring worn on his left ear signified that he was a High Priest of Silver Sliver, the thin copper circlet on his temples symbolized his promotion to Grand Magus of Haroltics, and the multi-colored rings on his thick fingers each represented the stages of his rise to ArchBishop of the ten Cosmic Rays.

He had a necessary outfit that announced his understanding and acknowledgment of the primal cosmic energies. Upon his left wrist, he wore a turquoise glove that extended all the way to his bicep, though half-way covered by the sky blue of his sorcerer sleeve. Upon his right wrist, his glove was a sunny yellow, glimmering underneath the transparent fabric of his orange sleeve. The sleeves were attached with intricate bindings to a robe checkered with white and black. Over his slicked-down, mouse-brown hair, he wore a crown that resembled the Pharaohs and it was horizontally striped black and green. Sticking out from the ruffled hem, his red shoes curled with small bells attached to the pointed tips.

His robe had three pockets – all hidden from view due to the illusionary nature of checkered patterns – in which he kept his notes, an old navy blue pen, his gemstones and sigils. When the Magus would become nervous, he’d run his palms over the two big pockets and then, gently, over the small one with a quick inhale, long exhale.

It was this expression that let the Magus know it was time for him to retreat. Ever since he realized this, many years ago, he’d spent almost all his days alone. Long gone were the days of socializing and philosophizing with occult-minded peers. They had all died, disappeared or worse, became christian. Unsure because of his isolation, he wondered at times if he was the only one from his birth year still alive. What would something like that mean? What did it mean to be the only one of an age?

The Magus lived in a mansion that a lesser priest had given him before his retreat. Originally, he hadn’t intended to do so. The gift was given in illform, a desperate attempt to be promoted through material offering, but the hut he had built in the woods was chilly in the fall and unbearable in the winter. It took weeks of contemplation to realize that only his pride stubbornly kept him at the self-made home. Once he realized this, he moved out and into the large box-shaped palace. His hut could fit in the ground floor’s bathroom alone.

He didn’t invite people over often and after the death of his favorite High Priestess – cancer of the mind, in a hospital he didn’t dare visit – he didn’t invite anyone at all. The Magus didn’t need any servants, groundskeepers or anything that seemed pointless to his minimalist lifestyle.

Only a few years passed before the ivy had overgrown and the yard had gone wild, thriving from fertile soil, no longer restricted by man’s hand. The hedges had created a wall, which none could see through. The only place to see into the courtyard was from the iron gate that tediously hung on rusted hinges, nearly blown off from a particularly gusty day. From the five-by-five spot, a voyeur could peer up the brick walkway to observe the looming four-story modern architecture and wonder about the strange man who lived alone inside.

For a while, the Magus kept creatures, but creatures are not pets and soon, natural selection whittled them down to the most fearsome of predators and the most agile of prey. Late in the night, there would be crashing and rumbling through the house as survivors would try to eliminate each other. Still, the Magus felt attached to them in a way he always was with all creatures. He let his snakes, Eris and Set, slither up his legs and hide underneath his skirt from the devouring gaze of his falcon, Myth, on an almost daily basis.

The Magus would stay in his house. Occasionally invitations arrived at his doorstep, left by hopeful initiates that had read his books and still believed he was accessible, merely because he was alive. They were kept in a dresser on the left side of the entry. Over the years, two drawers had been filled to the brim with various colored papers. He never went to any events, nor did he ever actually read the letters. The Magus did not know about these readers. He did not have a computer for they were after his time… and he never thought to get one, so he could never read any e-mails either. Those things took your soul.

On exceptionally sunny days, he would sit in the wild garden on a golden bench that overlooked a silver-tinted pond with skeletal fish swimming lazily in the shallow depths. A panther stalked to and fro between the bushes, black as the shadows and just as menacing, having built a sleeping den nearby.

Once, on a cloudy day, the Magus had gone outside because he’d felt an intuitive call to the the garden. He had found a young man mauled, the unfortunate victim of the temperamental cat. No doubt, the kid had hoped for an audience. The Magus buried him beside the rose bushes, after offering the soul to a God-Form he’d been hoping to invoke for months.

The next day, when they bloomed, he was thrilled to see that the usual red petals had been streaked with droplets of black. When he took them off, ground them in a stone mortar with a crystal pestle, and wove the powder into incense cones, he knew he would be using them on a special day in a future that he shouldn’t have ever known about.

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Part II

The Magus loathed food. He drank mostly tea that he made from herbs that he grew from seeds that he gathered. His teas brought him bliss, but he never forgot his teachings. Moderation, after all, was something he believed in. He’d have only three cups or less, no more than that, and once a week, he’d eat flesh of some kind. It was a balanced diet, he was certain. Tea and Meat. Though the Priestess used to bring him tiny cakes with little berries placed on top. He missed those, he supposed, when he would sit at the fireplace and watch cobwebs quiver.

At night, the Magus had to work. It wasn’t an option to do otherwise. Work, however, wasn’t the mortal’s concept of toil and few would ever understand why. Whatever it was that he did, it required immense concentration and that was enough to define it as work. Sleep was rare, something of a sentimental past time to the Magus, who no longer required breaks from his conscious mind. He’d do whatever would need to be done, his summoning skills champion to all and he could get what he needed from the comfort of his box-shaped home.

He didn’t always work alone, though he always was alone. His information, his skill, his mastery was frequently requested by clients in far-away places.

There was a time when the Magus was an adept and he had no clients at all. Back then, he sought truth and power. Forward now, he sought nothing at all. He merely existed and perhaps this means that the Magus had found truth, accomplished consolidation of power, or maybe it means that he gave up or forgot what he’d been looking for in the first place. If the Magus knew, he probably wouldn’t tell. And it is for this precise reason, that the Magus came to know what he should not.

A funny thing happens when someone is able to actually keep secrets. Suddenly, the whole world wants to lay their confessions upon that person until they can no longer hold anymore and break under the weight. It’s an unconscious thing and often, it is the secret-keeper who retains the sole understanding of what is happening. Every being feels the irresistible urge to tell things they wouldn’t tell anyone, when they meet a secret-keeper. And though the keepers recognize the pattern, rarely any are able to identify with this role, let alone comprehend the science behind it.

The Magus, however, was not common. There was a time when he could have been called common, but even then, he was not and those that said so were wrong. Truly, he was one-of-a-kind, but people rarely recognize actual outliers. They much prefer to elevate honed models of similar prototypes. This is the case in most areas of social interaction, human or not, and even in occult schools, this propensity for the familiar arises. Despite this, it is fascinating that the Magus – once the Adept – rose from this mire of mediocrity to claim title after title. His methods were clear as crystal, though.

Someone who is dim believes blackmail is the most efficient way to use a secret. It may be convenient, for a time, but a blackmailer always gets what is coming to them. This inevitable consequence destroys any semblance of efficiency. It is not the blackmailer who retains power. It is the creation of the environment, the reality, that the blackmailer creates around the secret. The Magus understood this, at an early age, and used this to position himself around those who would fall. His rise to power had nothing to do with extraordinary magic talents, but rather his keen ability to determine eventual defeat. Incidentally, as he acquired power from the title – the status alone offering him great realms of abilities he would never have otherwise – he felt an incessant drive to learn all he could. It was his reason, his truth, his path and his goal – to learn all that he could, even the things he shouldn’t have known.

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Part III

Eris and Set had heard all about it, again and again, they were the sole bearers of the Magus’ exorbitant amount of secrets. As snakes, they didn’t particularly care beyond the trivial amusement it provided their spirits. They knew the Magus from before he’d been born and their presence was merely out of curiosity. Thus, when they heard that he knew what he ought not know, they felt an uncharacteristic desire to right the cosmic wrong.

All of the human magic in the world can never compare to the thinnest of snake magic. The mechanics of which, however, are strikingly different and require complex inputs to the equations that would manifest the expected output. Eris and Set were only Adept Snakes and they debated whether the Ritual of Forgetfulness was a reasonable one for them to take on. A few times they asked Myth, the falcon, whether it was possible. The certainty of his answers made the snakes feel uncertain, so they asked Unknown, the panther in the garden, whether she thought it was plausible or not.

“If you can convince him to forget on his own, then I don’t see why not.” Unknown paced around the hedges, guarding her area with fierce conviction. The snakes agreed that seemed like a fair point and went ahead with preparing the ritual.

It isn’t an easy task for a python to pour milk into a glass. Eris did it, with great concentration, and was furious enough that when she saw the milk was sour, she swatted the glass off the counter. It shattered in the corner.

“Guess someone has to make a trip to the store.” Set decided it would be him as he said it, slithering out the door and to the local grocery mart. The Magus never went, but occasionally the animals would visit. Sure, they could request it from The Magus, but there was no need. Their business was their own.

After some maneuvering and requesting help from a stray coyote, Set returned with a half-gallon of milk and a bag of couple chickens. He had just taken the groceries. The shopkeepers never seemed to acknowledge him, just stood very still behind the counter. He didn’t concern himself with what they might feel.

Once Eris had poured another glass of milk, after carefully cleaning up the prior mess while Set was away, they ate the chickens with great pleasure.

The Magus wasn’t sure what to make of it as he walked in on the snakes eating the prepared food. He slowly walked down the stairs, glancing at the lone glass of milk on the counter, then back on the snakes and a stray dog that seemed to have joined them. In his mind, he asked many questions, but he voiced none as he walked over. Picking up the milk, he took it to the sink and poured it out.

The Snakes would have to come up with another plan, watching as the old man left to return to his studies. They hissed, glancing at the stray dog that had a lazy eye. Guiding the dog out, they sent it Unknown’s way and shut the door to return to their plotting.

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to be continued