The Slaves of the Desert Mine
This first post will be used for general information and for links and will change once in a while. The chapters are in my later posts.
This story has evolved quite a bit over the years. It took many steps to get it to what it is now from the near-unreadable wall of text it was in the beginning. I also did change some relatively minor things around so if you have read the story before and are now reading this again and things are different, that is why.
If you do have any questions about the world or anything related, just go ahead and ask, I'll try my best to answer in a reply, if it's significant enough I might even work it into a side story or put it into dedicated section in the OP.
While it may have started out as a Minecraft Fanfic, this story has also turned into a kind of playground for me to try out different things in writing, I like to experiment after all. So don’t be surprised if you see a sudden shift in style for a chapter.
These are short stories related to the main story, mainly this is for ideas that I couldn’t work into the regular chapters but I didn’t want to go without.
Do not read them if you haven’t read the main story first, you may be spoiled and won’t understand certain aspects.
ᅚI could feel the Void wearing down on my magic heavily, I was in was in the deepest reaches of Drandin’s mines, all but the most powerful magic was drowned out here. The room was plain, no engravings decorated the dark stone walls. The room itself was circular and empty, the only remarkable thing was a round stone altar in its center. The altar had trenches in it, leading to its center into a hole. Traces of old blood were on the altar, which had stuck to the rock despite efforts to clean them off.
ᅚI was not alone, several other people were here with me. They were enchanters, mages and an alchemist. The seven mages were all human, one of the enchanters was an Air Mencur-Besh, the alchemist was my brother Fire. Fire was holding a flask with a potion, the Air Mencur-Besh held a knife made from silver.
ᅚAfter taking a deep breath I walked to the center of the room and laid down on the altar. I was nervous, nervous was an understatement, I was on the verge of panic. I had seen several ascensions and none of them had turned out well and now they would attempt it on me.
ᅚThe first few just died from the potion itself, which had been purely experimental at that point. Others couldn’t handle the magic being infused into them, they had crumbled to dust. They had experimented with blood from Mencur-Besh of different elements for the potion, none of it had worked. The only blood that seemed to influence the process was that of a Wither Mencur-Besh. Both of the subjects had survived but instead of fading, the runes on their skin pulsated black. The second one of those two had been a complete stranger to the Eye-and-Claws, it had been more a desperate attempt to see if the mark itself interfered with the ascension. Now they were just hoping to find a combination of circumstances that would lead to success.
ᅚThe more I thought about the past failures of the Ascension Project, the less I wanted to stay on this altar but I knew that it was now too late to back down.
ᅚFire came over to me and gave me the flask without a word. The potion had a dark color, red streaks swirled around inside as if they refused to mix with the rest of the potion, Fire’s blood.
ᅚI put the flask to my lips and drank, the potion tasted absolutely disgusting, I suppressed my urge to vomit and forced it all down, then I dropped the flask. I knew what the potion did, I had seen it in effect enough times already. At first it would paralyze my body for the safety of everyone in the room, then it would drain all of my life force. This would normally result in death but the main function of the potion was to keep me alive no matter what happened. While I thought about the potion I could already feel myself losing control of my limbs. There was no numbness, just loss of control. First my fingers and toes went stiff, followed by my arms, legs and everything else, my eyes stayed wide open. I was used to this, this hadn’t been the first time I had been immobilized. However, nothing could have prepared me for feeling my own heart stop, I stopped trying to suppress my panic, I would have screamed if I had any control over my body. After my heart stopped, I could feel my life force slowly draining. I should have been dead, the only thing that was keeping me alive was the potion.
ᅚThis was the point of no return.
ᅚThe Ender mage cast a spell that lifted me up into the air, the yellow-eyed Mencur-Besh enchanter stepped closer, raising her knife. I knew her, her name was Gust, she usually worked in the mine and also enchanted tools for herself and the other workers.
ᅚThe knife was made from silver and was enchanted itself, which wasn’t possible due under normal circumstances due to the very nature of silver, but the Eye-and-Claws enchanters had managed to do so anyways.
ᅚThat knife was now used to carve a rune deeply into my upper arm, just below my shoulder. The pain shot through my whole right side, I heard my blood drip onto the altar below in the absolute silence of the room. Without hesitation Gust carved a crescent shape into my flesh, followed by lines connecting to it. Immediately after she was done with the first rune, she started another one just a little further down. I perceived all of this with a strange clarity, the panic had disappeared, the pain drowned out any thought.
ᅚGust worked quickly and efficiently, the knife cut through muscles and sinews and not once got stuck. I felt more of my blood leave my body, very slowly since my heart wasn’t beating anymore. Gust turned my floating body around to access other parts of my skin, while I looked down I could see just how much blood I was losing, it was all slowly flowing down the trenches carved into the rock and disappeared into the hole in the middle of the altar. I knew that there was a bottle below to collect it, the blood of powerful mages was a valuable resource to alchemists.
ᅚEven with Gust’s speed it still took over an hour to finish the carving, about halfway through, the blood had stopped flowing. Now every bit of my skin was covered in rune shaped cuts. I braced myself, I knew that the carving was the least painful of the steps.
ᅚGust put the knife away, the other four enchanters stepped forward and surrounded the altar. The enchanters held stone tablets which had the same runes engraved in them that Gust had carved into my skin.
ᅚThe enchanters began by gently humming, soon each hum split into many, the runes on the tablets started glowing white and duplicates floated upwards. They spent the next few minutes coaxing the runes in position above their carved counterparts with the same quiet hums. Once every rune was where it belonged, the enchanters’ voices began to rise. The sudden force of their combined voices hit me painfully. The runes slowly descended into the cuts in my flesh, as they touched my skin a burning, yet cold feeling radiated from the cuts outwards, much worse than the knife. I heard sizzling sounds as the runes fused themselves into my flesh but I smelled no burning.
ᅚLiving matter outright refused to be enchanted and rejected any runes, only dead things could be enchanted. I, however was neither entirely alive nor entirely dead, my body did accept the runes but only very slowly and painfully. While fighting against the pain I sincerely hoped that none of the enchanters’ voices would slip like I had seen once, it would go unnoticed until the final step but then the result hadn’t been pretty. The image of a body torn apart by uncontained magic flashed before my mental eye. It was my own spell that had shielded everybody else in the room back then.
ᅚAfter what seemed like a very long time, the burning stopped, the runes were where they belonged, still glowing brightly. The cuts were still there, the runes had just occupied the gaps.
ᅚThe enchanters stepped back, the mages forward. I didn’t know their names but I knew that each of them only had one element at their disposal and that they were among best in their respective element. Their physical appearance greatly reflected their alignment, few of those changes were voluntary, some elements permanently affect their casters over the long term. Most mages only showed slight changes but the mages here had intensely practiced magic for over a millennium.
ᅚThe first two mages to channel their energy into me were the Fire and Water mages. The Fire mage’s red hair and eyes stood in an intense contrast to the Water mage’s bright hair and deep blue eyes. The opposing elements collided inside my body, I could feel both the burning and destructive energy of Fire and the gentle yet firm altering Water magic. The opposing forces had stabilized, Air and Earth were next. Again, their casters stood in an intense contrast, the Earth mage had a strong, bulky physique while the Air mage looked elegant and slender. The crackling force of Air collided with the fortifying Earth magic.
ᅚNow that the four primal elements had reached a very painful state of equilibrium, the fundamental elements could join in. Some elements did not change their users much, Life was one of those, the Life mage looked just like a regular woman, save for her almost white eyes. The Wither mage stood in a stark contrast, he barely had any meat on his bones and his face was sunken in, the only reason why he couldn’t be mistaken for an undead were his eyes, they glinted in the most attentive of blacks. The opposing forces of Life and Wither battled inside of me, one looking to create and heal, the other looking to destroy and control. Eventually even those two found an even ground, the pain all over my body was past unbearable.
ᅚThe last mage was one of the Ender element, he was completely unchanged by his magic, he also didn’t have a counterpart since by its very nature Void magic couldn’t be controlled by any known mage. As soon as he started channeling his magic into me, the already excoriating pain exploded. This was not the familiar feeling of Ender magic surging through me, this was a pain that came from below me, from the Void itself. With all other elements in balance, the Ender magic too sought to be in balance with its counterpart. My perpetually open eyes noticed surprise and concern in the eyes of the mages surrounding me, it seemed like they too were sensing the reaction, their energy streams did not change in the slightest though. The pain from below me turned into a pull, yanking me out of the air, down onto the altar, I felt my ribcage and skull shatter from the force.
ᅚOnly once before had I felt Void magic, now I felt it for the second time, only infinitely stronger. It was like a finger reaching up from the nothing below the world, through the bedrock and up to the altar. I knew it was now only a matter of seconds until it would reach me.
ᅚI was prepared for death, nobody could survive direct contact with the Void.
ᅚNo death came, just a strange and oddly comforting touch all over my body. The mages stopped their energy streams, all visibly distressed by what they too had just felt.
ᅚI suddenly didn’t feel the pain anymore, just a feeling of… of what? Before I could think more about this feeling, my consciousness finally gave out.
ᅚMy eyes opened. I was still lying on the altar, my body was in pain again but there was nobody else in the room. I sat up and touched my skin. I felt no irregularities, no cuts. I looked down to inspect further but what I saw was not the pale skin I remembered, my skin had turned pitch black, so black even that I could only ever see the contours of my body. My hair had turned white, just as white as the hair of a Mencur-Besh. I turned my head downwards, some of my blood was still fresh enough to act as a crude mirror. Though the crimson tint I could still clearly see that my own eyes were now entirely red, just like those of my brother.
ᅚI sat there and listened to the absolute silence. Silence was not what I expected to hear, I at least expected my own heartbeat, it took a few moments to realize that my heart had not started beating again. Normally this would have concerned me but I was filled with a strange calm. I continued listening for lack of having anything better to do.
ᅚThen I heard it, a giggle. It was hard to tell if it was malevolent or playful. Before I could wonder where it came from, my own shadow started dancing through the room with a strange joy, still giggling. A few minutes later, it had stopped and was now looking back at me. I extended my hand in an attempt to communicate. The shadow walked towards me and returned to the place where it was supposed to be. Whatever this was, I felt that it was part of me now. And while I didn’t know what my shadow was, I knew exactly what I was.
This is the image:
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