The man awoke, as usual, in a sumptuous bed in the middle of nowhere. Hot. He'd made the down too thick again. And the sun was flashing in his eyes like some divine alarm clock. Of course he had spent half the night up. One of the perks of being free of the academy was living under the stars and the shadows and the vaguely inspirational darkness which never was quite as satisfying when the alchemist conjured it himself.
I am the Master of Space and Time
Earth. Air. Fire. Water. Ether. The keys to the universe stretched blearily between the folds of his grey matter, turned, and snuggled back between their overactive blankets. The secrets of the universe resting happily within a man who blearily clutched at his glasses, and willed the curtains to shut once more.
He missed his tower.
To do, to do.. get up, he supposed. But that was haaaaaaard. And it was so very warm and cuddly and cuddly warm here. Would it be warm like that there, too - the kind of perpetual glow that radiates from within? No, of course not. Body heat. No body. Don't be stupid, Valeth.
Oh right. That reminded him.
I think that I shall die today
He really must start writing these things down. What if it had been a timed ingredient for a potion?
Yawn. Growl . Stretch. Up.
The epiphany came, as most did, over marmalade and scones at breakfast.
Oh, but how to do it?
The sorcerer was dwarfed by his baggy green silk pajamas, fuzzy emerald slippers sliding across the hardwood as he ran to keep the tea from keeping on with it's infernal whistling. Almost as bad as the birds, that. But those were what poison spells were for, hmmm?
Lezard Valeth couldn't help but smile a bit. He was, as always, a morning person. One of the pros of regularly induced insomnia. REM was soo.. quaint, non? Though charming in it's seeming lack of reason.
What a delightful question! How. Not why. Why is easy.
The most base of animals has a why. Mothers protecting their nests, large furred things hunting for smaller furred things.. that sort of rubbish. Point a to point b. Birth, procreation, death. All very neat, really. All in good time. Lezard Valeth really had to applaud the Yggdrassil for that. Carrot-on-a-stick had to be a relatively novel concept when one is a giant tree.
This tea had a why too. Diffusion. Osmosis. And a wonderful hint of jasmine and mint under the usual herbs. Splashing a bit into his gold-rimmed, fine-bone china, the master of space and time unceremoniously slugged back his genteel breakfast beverage. Scones always made his throat dry. And there was no paper to read it with today anyways.
I am above the vulgarity of why.
Who was there to mind his manners, the demons?
So how it was. How to die. He only got to die once, you know. It should be... an experience! And he'd best get it over with before the final act started and she was busy rushing about with that fool who was obviously overcompensating for something. What was his name. Armor? Arnold? Whatever. Killed off by solders, wasn't he? How.. dramatic. In a public theater sort of way.
Mmmm... the butter was melting beautifully on his toast...
But mustn't those slaughters seem so cliché to her, after so many years in the ether?
Breakfast, the genius concluded, was highly conducive to reasoning.
He ought to indulge in it more often.
The first place he ported to after a nice hot shower was fit for a king.
It had been made for a king, you know. Some long-dead ruler with an apparent fetish for pyramids. All jewels and statues.. this place was nothing but a shrine to the transference of one single man to the Aesir plane. Valkyrie must enjoy it immensely. Fire and lacquer and and the ashes of mystics scattered to the stagnant air. A normal human could not survive here.
It won't hurt much to die, I think.
Women liked that sort of thing, didn't they? Mysty had always liked pretty things, but Mysty was a delusional shrew. Such potential wasted. A shame really. He could freeze himself, like she did, but then some idiot might stumble across it and thaw him back to life and that would do no good at all. Unless he constructed himself some sort of elaborate tomb like this one. That could be interesting. Obsidian, maybe? He'd always been partial to obsidian. It was an ingredient in the Philosopher's Stone - sentimental value and all that. Why... he could set his body up as a zombie king! Conversations with himself... it would be grand!
But then she'd trudged through enough crypts to comprise his entire lifetime by now, no doubt. It would be tedious for her. And such a shame, to subject his body to the same Nibelung Valesti that had pierced writhing mindless unholiness and inconsequential wonders. They were all the same, really. Lezard 's shadow would be one in eternity.
It will hurt less that growing old.
Indeed. The more he thought about it, the more embalming and/or re-animation was most certainly out. Frayed and degraded like this sad little place full of petty monsters and the small-time megalomaniacs that might herd them. Just as well in Tower as in Tomb. Besides, Lezard enjoyed his brain. It made such wondrous things - like jewels that gleam the wisdom of the ages ages and towers of rune and ruin. It seemed a bit of a disrespect to damage the thing when it was not longer needed as hardware for his tricks of processing.
The alchemist supposed that ruled out a crossbow bolt to the head, too.
The necromancer's nose itched as he squinted to pondered a a faintly-cracked,
firelit urn. Why was he here again?
The knife, slicing fluidly through a ripe new tomato, slipped and slit his finger. Blast. Lezard should not have taken off his gloves.
Why did he feel more like eating now of all times? He didn't need food. Usually skipped meals for days.
It won't hurt much to die, I think.
The blood welled down the drain, washed away by a summoned spurt of water. Still.. it stung a bit, until the alchemist gathered the presence of mind to bandage it with a tearing from a nearby rag. A necromancer did not heal.
Soon pressure ebbed it into a dull ache, bleeding its anger into his nerve endings.
I have already ruled out stabbing, you see. Maiming, trauma, that kind of thing.
Begin unaccustomed to pain, the sorcerer flinched a little. Tomato forgotten. Which wasn't to say that he minded the sight of blood... just the sight of his own blood meandering to stain his fingerprint into the muddied snow-white cloth.
I do so hate to be a bore.
An impression. Yes.
His death would make an impression too. But... not through pain. No, not that.
Sent chills up his spine.
My love, she will be watching!
Something poetic - poetry was key. She'd died poetically, hadn't she? In that whirling snowfall of flowers? So pretty. A prelude to the fields of Valhalla. It must have been a wonderful place to forget. So painless. So.. beautiful. Truth is not beauty, and beauty is not truth, but beauty is glorious all the same. His death... for her, his death would be beautiful. Poetic justice, but without the crime committed
The sorcerer, ignoring the remaining scarlet banner of his pain, turned away from the impromptu snack to a rune-ringed scrying circle.
You wonder why I love her, Mysty?
Lezard Valeth was a master of memory too.
Tomato paste looks kind of like blood. Tomato.. sauce? Yes, that too. Paste is maybe more clotted. Was that what they used on the stage? With some preservative or other mixed in? Lezard really should look into that. Irony would add a wonderfully delectable new layer to his little venture. Covered with stage blood at the floor show that was his own death...
HaHA! Sometimes, my brilliance astounds even I.
But Valkyrie might not notice. And what if it smelled badly?
The corpse of the draconian familiar that followed the necromancer about (raised handily from the dead while skipping Intro to Potions five years earlier) nuzzled it's master a bit with concern. The creature's flesh was cold and.. static. Like a living doll pressed upon Valeth's cheek.
A plaything, it was. The performers here thought it naught but a marvelous puppet. How grand!
Its beady black eyes, staring with all the force a soulless void can muster into Valeth's own pupils, blinked quizzically as the curtains were drawn back.
You wonder why I love her? Why I.. care so much?
The spotlight fell upon them - glaring off of the master's bifocals into a faceless, nonexistent audience.
I loved her the very first time I saw her.
And the sorcerer vanished from the test venue he had rented in a sudden
fit of post-modernity. His epitaph a puff of smoke and a flash of
Naturally, he'd forgotten all about it. How.. silly. Sometimes Lezard's mind was just too packed with salient facts for it's own good. One of the hazards of attempting to memorize a codex off all the knowledge in the world and outside it.
The torture chamber would be the perfect place!
What a comment! What a statement! What a condemnation of society! Lezard Valeth - the true modern anti-hero complete with angst and loneliness and a tortured (get it?) past. This, dear observers, was true performance art. And gods knew what those performers would have done with his body anyways. Those dogs outside the building had looked a bit too malnourished for his liking.
His arm-length corpse of a dragon, curled up about a rather rusty looking iron spike, stared out from the flame-tipped shadows.
You wonder why I love her?
The guillotine.. well, he hadn't actually tested it, had he? Only used it to threaten those stupid elves. The curved blade, looming over him as centerpiece of the day (beside a well-polished and much-loved antique Iron Maiden), looked almost like it was.. smiling. Silver grin flashing death by the candles.
The rings attached to the walls, which had been used, winked from the background as audience.
Quick too, the guillotine. No damage to his head - Lezard might even be able to preserve it somehow once he was recorporealized as an Einherjar.
I saw her. She came.
His .. 'pet' flapped dumbly about, fanning the alchemists face. Could it....?
She came for them.
No. There was no one to pull the cord that wasn't under some kind of thrall and would probably eat him afterwards. And if Lezard did it himself that would just look ridiculous. Cursed Mysty just had to die first, didn't she?
She'll come for me.
Noon in the Valeth household meant many things. The wraiths fed. His homunculi were injected with a fresh batch of intravenous nutrient mucous in their holding cells. Several runic patterns initiated an interdimensional protective feedback loop. The elves would stop their bleating. And everything would be finally, gloriously quiet except for the bells of a timepiece that he could almost have called irrelevant. A routine punctuated every once in a while by the sound of his toaster turning out yet another apple-cinnimon bagel ripe for the cream-cheezing.
Or at least it had. In his Tower. Lezard really missed his Tower.
Noon in the new Valeth household now meant only one thing, and that was tea and peanutbutter sandwiches.
Is there tea in Valhalla?
The bottle of spell-grade hemlock perched casually beside his cup was
finally disregarded in the name of simple pleasures.
His new home had been inconsequential and half a world away from Solerno or anything else remotely meaningful. The perfect cottage retreat. But the sorcerer has missed his Tower. So Valeth went back - dematerializing and materializing with a chant and the whistle of a jaunty tune.
Things were simple like that when you were the Master of Space and Time.
I lived in this tower for years.
And the whistling echoed in the remains of the glass cocoons.
The quiet helps me think. What was why I moved so far away. It was never quiet at the academy... those idiots had no respect for proper research at all.
And the whistling echoed through the empty corridors - once filled with ghosts and monsters and demons of the lesser ilk. Goblins, wraiths, predators, prey. It ricocheted off of their bones and into killing sunlight.
They are not Masters of Space and Time - with their chattering and their gossip and their ill-begotten relationship woes. Only I.
And the whistling echoed in the lovingly-carved depths of a thousand runes, all shattered to pieces.
Why wouldn't I leave? None of them have a Tower to call their own either. Hah!
And the whistling echoed up, up - up and away to the very plateau. The sacrificial altar he'd built just for Lorenta. That one brief shining moment where the Valkyrie had streaked down from the ether on swan's wings and strait into the fight he'd wrought just to keep her attention. That Lorenta had been a worthy sacrifice tasted of gall - but he kept whistling.
I'd like to die here.
And the whistling echoed down, down, down from the heights of unstable obsidian and granite. Down to the untouched depths of the forest below. Trees lancing upwards to recieve the song that they would never hear from birds that had been killed years ago.
I could jump, but I doubt she'd appreciate the smashed-up corpse.
And he was happy, if anyone cared.
Valkyrie, my passion for you...
This was starting to become somewhat... vexing.
I have nothing.
The Master of Space and Time was not used to being vexed. Things always eventually fell his way.
When you come for me, you'll understand.
Except, naturally, for the one thing he wanted to fall his way. Stupid lightning wouldn't hit the umbrella he was holding. It wasn't like there were any trees out in this storm... what did he have to do, fly up there and ask the weather gods very nicely to please please fry him to a crisp? Natural lightning wasn't all that hard to come by. But at this rate he wouldn't even come close to his objective of being stuck twice.
Bah. Lezard was wet now. And cold. And his nose was numb from the wind. And it would take forever to get the mud out of his boots...
Maybe I'll understand too.
What was he going to do, die for Valkyrie like some sad pathetic begging
At the edge of the forest lay a tree with a rope round it's branch. It had once been a tree swing for the Master of Space and Time. When he had been Lee Valeth - Master of the Junior Chemistry Club.
Underneath he found a four-leafed clover impacted in a bald spot of lawn that was slowly growing over again in his absence.
A sunbeam, filtered through the leaves like fine-grade petroleum, has cast the world in yellow. Making it not so much painful to look up, as bright and somewhat disorienting.
To bad the swing was gone now. When had it left? Storm, maybe? Or random act of monster? But it was just a swing.. how sad.
I wonder if Mysty will be there too. Or Lorenta.
Faugh. He was sad. Lezard could fly, couldn't he? Idiocy. How sentimental and mushy - like that undeserving fool Lucian. He felt like he was in some kind of bad morality play. Ooooh - evil villain turned to good by childhood toy!
Well... not that Valeth was a villain. He preferred "misunderstood" and "dedicated".
I wonder if they'll want to know why.
It didn't seem quite right to use the rope to hang himself - symbolic value of the scene or no.
I am the Master of Space and Time! I do not answer the questions of fools.
Gah. Thank goodness Valkyrie wasn't there. How embarrassing.
Caught in a flagrant breach of dignity, Valeth fled via teleport.
It took too long. It would be good, to be incorporeal. The
teleport would still take as long once he was dead but perhaps he'd have
invisibility to amuse him. Except that didn't amuse him. And
he could do it anyways. Which made it quite the fortunate thing that he
was, after all, the Master of Space and Time.
Light to light. Magic to magic. Childhood to childhood... or at least to growing up. He might as well do the full tour. Ponder the impressively gaudy halls of Solerno Academy. Laugh behind the backs of the upperclassmen who held within their pathetic little minds as many occult secrets as he had in his toenails.
Lorenta didn't want me around.
They hated him, of course. Their glares amused him. No one dared escort Lezard Valeth off of the premises - not since he'd killed the headmaster and her husband as part of an elaborate courtship stunt.
They didn't want me around before Lorenta didn't want me around.
In a way, he liked that they hated him. Since he hated them back, it meant that Valeth need not look up at his former classmates smugly strutting the high road. He'd put up with enough of that from Lorenta. Good, noooooble Lorenta who'd been 'trying to protect the world from him'.
Of course she'd let Mysty stay, in exchange for giving up the books that didn't appear in these jeweled shelves.
I had to teach myself scrying, because of it. And I'm good, too. What, did they think that the whole word was them!? That I'd stop just because they rejected me? That being a sorcerer was just a way into this.. this... this little club of cuddly-wuddly friends?
Those that second-stringer Mysty hadn't hidden, anyways.
Now I am the Master of Space and Time.
On second thought, they'd get far too much satisfaction from his spontaneously
combusting. Even if it did burn down their puritanical little library.
Answers trapped in crystal can be mined.
I don't need this. I MADE this.
The alchemist had thought that perhaps he wouldn't need it. That perhaps the wheels would turn within his own limited human sphere and click into place just this once. Just like that one time, that one other time, when he'd found the recipe for eternal fulfillment in crystallized form.
The Philosopher's Stone, and angry red his palms, glowed dully with its own fire. Nothing noticeable from the roof of the cottage where Lezard had perched himself expectantly.
How dare they say I'm just a... just a...
Hard to explain, exactly how the student read it. Valeth wasn't even sure that anyone else could. It wasn't like a book, this glorified library. You couldn't flip the page, study the diagrams, and fall upon some random hint of knowledge upon any given page. Disconcerting, really. He'd taken along his notepad to jot down whatever he got from it.
I MADE IT.
The stone operated by... feeling. The sort of shaky instinct that tortures a man of reason in his nightmares.
It told him about many things, the stone, when he asked the right question. Could list off the ingredients for most anything an alchemist would desire to make. Could chant the words in perfect rhythm to spells that had never found human voice, should he ask. In essence, it operated by imagination - protecting itself from the weak of mind by cloaking answers in the obscurity of invention.
Comprehension.. do they have any idea what it took just to understand this?
But it was Evil. Bad. That's what they said. Blood of gryphon - death! Onyx - that's Dark Arts!
That's your imagination right there. The mental dexterity to dodge free of the fold, and explore the recesses of being that the stone itself might illuminate. An ugly, burning lump, it did not illuminate the good or the evil or even the fact - it illuminated the truth, which was perhaps more than the students of Solerno Academy could bear with their codes of conduct and petty personal limitations.
No, of course not.
That was what the necromancer liked to think as he sat alone and as yet still ungraduated at the top of his class. Perched with precarious confidence on a tiled slope.
Dark Arts. Necromancer. Criminal!
A man like him needed what lay in those dully throbbing depths - the shade of poppy and crushed roses. On fire.
They do not understand the true pursuit of knowledge. They do not deserve to see me die.
He needed to see the path to death that had placed him in this desolate
frontier. To find his perfect extinction, and grasp the formula for
Brushing a strand of mouse-brown hair out of his glasses, the sorcerer set to work almost immediately. If he waited he might lose his nerve, and have to have some other give him that one final push he so desperately needed - a bird from the nest.
As he'd had to do for Mysty.
Mysty was not as brilliant as I.
Couldn't stop thinking about it. Mysty. Lorenta. Had they been happy? Did they understand his passion?
Did they understand the gift he'd given them?
Ah, to have gone out like Mysty... now there was a death in a million. Just walking about and.. poof! How many people can say that they've died during an out-of-body experience? That was entirely my doing, of course. She fell and she couldn't get up.
Cavalier necromancers were supposed to be. Laughing in the face of death.. the usual. Gods, he was laughing now - the anticipation growing palpable as he allowed the cauldron under him to bubble and steam the specific elixir.
Get it? Fell? Into the astral plane? Fell and then she couldn't get up?
The air smelled of myrrh and wilted lilies and pine needles scattered on the porch.
I kill me.
Lezard hadn't come to visit her, because she wasn't there. The sorceress Mystina was dead and gone, you know - waiting among the Einherjar of the Aesir for what scraps of knowledge they might throw her way after a meal. Like some wretched ghostly dog.
Mysty... was a terrible rival. She should have been my assistant.
He wouldn't mind being Valkyrie's dog. There were more brutal mistresses than Death. But.. what exactly could she feed him he couldn't hunt for himself?
But she wouldn't. She wouldn't. "Better things to do with her time"... like what!?!
It really was very cold in here. He should know. He'd cast the spell with utmost concentration out of a sort of... respect? Mourning? No, not that. Mysty had been nothing personal, and she'd do more good on the higher planes.
So why exactly was he here, sliding about in the ice that smothered half the room like some demented frosting on a brass cupcake? All he could see was her eyes - staring as they had when he'd first caught her in her meditative little game at playing dead. Staring out from the glorified tank at the nothingness of her doorway with all the rude intelligence of a dead fish.
... so it was kind of funny. Was that so wrong?
I would have let her come with me were she bearable. She dabbled in the Dark Arts too. She understood the price of knowledge, but.. that's really not enough to be a Master of Space and Time, is it? Hah! You need the brains, not just the attitude, and we both knew she didn't have them. Perhaps it was for the best that she look for all eternity into...
It was the rare day indeed that Lezard Valeth admitted that Mystina was anything approaching useful.
Valkyrie I will not have to invite.
Lezard Valeth was one of the few men on earth who could dare to consider himself as lost in thought.
Strike, dodge, parry, weave. The chalk practically flew in his hands, kicking up motes of dust as it teased out answers on a slate-green canvas. Lines converging under the supervision of a vaguely fanged grin - the assault only pausing to show perpetually sliding glasses back up of the attacker's nose.
Yellow and green labyrinths of numbers and symbols and long-forgotten codes were lost in the boyish gleam that colored the researcher's eyes. The world was at his fingertips. The forge was hot and waiting. This was where his mind had turned in circles and spun itself an index of Everything That Should Be Known.
What does it really matter that I am not a god?
He had chosen for the feat of derring-do a field of unremarkable proportions.
The grass was green. They sky was blue. The bugs were... biting.
The showman wanted no distracting natural beauty to interfere with appreciation of his choreography... and throwing a dart at his map of the world had yielded just that.
With a bow and a flourish, in his very best cape (he owned no other), the alchemist bid the corporeal farewell - grinning at the surrounding trees and the complex runic calculations swarming about him in mandala.
Self - I bequeath to you the interdimensional treasures of the great Lezard Valeth! All the knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone, and the mastery of Space and Time! Take care to feed the wraiths... haha!
When he closed his eyes, meaningless syllables of ultimate power summoned forth from his lips, the sorcerer poked a hole in the sky. Drew a ripple in the fabric of air right at the middle of his chest. Transmuting elusive substance into pinprick darkness ringed by signature green lightning. This was it. His triumph. His show. His darkness beyond the ken of mortal eyes drawing in the physical with the force of an imploded sun. Framed, of course, with the jade wisps of power that resonated about his whole form in one final symphony to the cradle of flesh that had given birth to their master. A pillar to the sky containing and releasing all at once - one brilliant magical masterpiece.
When his feet left the ground, it didn't hurt at all.
Except for the tearing.
Valkyrie my new love, Mysty my old foe... adieu and hello!
And with a cursory halo of rainbow black, the the alchemist imploded
Blinking his way back to concious thought, the entity that was Lezard Valeth stared blankly up at an empty eggshell horizon. His form, as it were, having willed itself back from the void by a sheer stubborn connection to the magics of the netherworld. Everything seemed... fine, really. Detatched, but fine. The world was brighter than ever.
It seemed that incorporeality had turned up the contrast.
Death had seen no need to stop for a Master of Space and Time.