Cloud Mages

The visitors sweep into the yard like whorls of dust in the air, barely touching the ground. Fluffy and floating, all frills of grey cloth and dandelion-puff pompoms. Zae imagines them gliding through the sky like that, floating town to town like the dirigible that goes past every few months when the fields start to turn yellow.

One of them sweeps towards the tree at the centre of the garden. Looks up, almost at Zae.

Zae pushes aside one of the big round leaves, and peeks down. The tree sways a little, up here. She’s closer to the crystal-blue bowl of the sky than the red ground.

The visitor moves away. Says something to the other cloud-person with her hands.

Zae leans out for a closer look. The branch she’s sitting on squeaks, a little. It’s been doing that more and more lately. Even with Mum-with-a-T watering it every day, the big tree doesn’t make as many leaves as it used to.

She reaches her face out further, and down, sticking one leg off the other side of the branch. The tree creaks loudly. The other visitor looks up, and Zae sees straight into her bright orange eyes.

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The Divine Vending Machine

The Adventurer, Issue 25, Year 3 of the Rose
Belle Stetsara

Is it time to re-think healing magic?

Healing: the curing of wounds by divine magic. It’s as ubiquitous as adventurers.

Wherever delvers are active, wherever there are monsters to slay, bandits to stop, or changes to make where the idle hand of the law cannot or will not reach, there are adventurers. And wherever they go, the priesthood is quick to follow.

Who hasn’t stumbled, wounded and bleeding, into the hasty A-frame of a frontier wooden shrine, and walked out hale and whole? Who hasn’t dropped a coin into the party resurrection jar; a donation for the marble halls of the Great Temple of the Green Heart in Towerburg, if the worst should happen? One way or another, we all owe our lives to the work of healers.

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Not to be Taken: Act 1, Scene 1

While Ivy settles in at the underwater base, other things are happening that will eventually have consequences for the Leaders. This is one of them.

Enter Prologue


As everyone knows, true magic is forbidden in the Asonian Empire. Mages have always wrought havoc for Ason, bringing firestorms, plagues, floods, or legions of undead on any Imperial citizen who happened to annoy them, so it isn’t surprising magic is illegal.

But outlawing magic doesn’t make it impossible, and using magic to fight the criminals who use it would make the kings and queens who used it just as guilty. Therefore, the Imperial Academy of the Lesser Magics was established to create and teach completely non-magical methods of equaling the skills of mages.

Our story begins at that Academy, on a March afternoon in early first semester.


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In Council

The Leaders finally do something for Ivy to record.

As I hurried to catch up, Jim pulled a device of some sort from an inner pocket. It was a clear plastic box with a screen, holding a lump of plasticine festooned with random electronic components. He held down several buttons, and spoke into a hole on the side. “Call: Clarisa. Council. Five minutes. Policy.” Several lights flickered, the object beeped twice, and a bit fell off and landed in the bottom of the container. Jim shook it, and put the device back in his pocket.

Jim turned around, and waved for me to catch up with him. “We must continue. As for that? It is said, among the Isikyus, that none but a fool relies, for a vital task, on something beyond their understanding. I follow that advice.”

“I see.” I presume the Isikyus also said it more clearly.

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“Present Card”

Ivy encounters the process of developing technology for an evil base.

As it turned out, getting to young Mike’s party was not a simple matter of walking up. After navigating up stairs and down corridors to the room it was in, I reached a door marked “CHILDCARE : ROOM B3-C11“. In front of the door, however, there was a robot.

This robot was not one of the gleaming confections of chrome and ceramic you see in movies. For want of chrome and ceramic, the entirety of the machine was painted in a matt white, with decoration spray-painted on in silver. The head was covered with an asymmetric arrangement of holes, lenses and sensors that looked more like a potato squashed into a tube than a person; the limbs were apparently constructed of plastic pipes, rubber bellows and duct tape; and the hands were corroding brass claws that looked like they had been taken from a high-tech pirate.

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The Raralandra

More of Ivy’s orientation in the underwater base.

Lunch was another bowl of the monotonous porridge. I made the mistake of asking how it could possibly be a balanced diet, and was treated to a lecture on exactly how much effort had gone into making sure it had the correct amounts of about 50 different nutrients. For this reason, there was allegedly no need to have any sort of condiment or flavouring with it; all those cost extra. The news didn’t improve the flavour.

I was too new here to have a conversation with anyone, so I sat in a corner chewing laboriously through the bland meal. Eventually, after scraping out the last of the tasteless gruel from the bowl, I had to meet Siersi Raralandra. I climbed slowly down the stairs, and stood before the door. It didn’t look like it was concealing a temple of evil, but how would I know? I knocked hesitantly, and waited.

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The Tour

Ivy has just agreed to work for the Black Fist, and is in the process of settling into the evil base that will now have to be her home for the rest of her life.

After recovering from Clarisa’s spell, I was rushed through various signing-up procedures so that there would be somewhere for me to sleep that night. One of the guards had helped me find clothes in one of the storerooms, and then led me to the room I had apparently been assigned. I was given a card that opened and locked the door, and the cupboards under the bed, and apparently could do anything else I would need a card for here, from licenses to money.

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On History’s Page, Part 2

Continued from Part 1. The narrator has just been captured by a leader of the evil organisation, and imprisoned as a spy.

I surveyed my cell. It was a small room, just large enough for a small bed, with a toilet and sink in a nook fitted with a curtain rail, but, unfortunately, no curtain. Not that it mattered – the cell door was solid (except for what was apparently a letterbox), and the security camera dome in one corner of the ceiling was pointing in the wrong direction to see anything – but it was annoying.

Unfortunately, my prospects of escaping this mess alive didn’t seem good. Stowing away on the cargo submarine had been a spur-of-the-moment thing – I’d been trying to track down a box of stolen bullion, and taken the chance to trace the submarine when it came. Properly, I shouldn’t have gone off like this without plenty of preparation, not the least of which was telling someone where I was going. Even if I was listed as a missing person, no-one would be looking for me here.

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On History’s Page, Part 1

Our narrator has just arrived in the mysterious and remote base of some sort of evil organisation.

I’ve seen several “fortresses of evil” in my time. Mostly, they seem to fairly quickly attract the attention of the authorities, and they find out how little their power actually is in comparison to a sovereign state. This one, though, seemed fairly old; the white paint covering the walls was wearing through in places, and the metal floor beginning to rust. That was surprising, that this remote undersea base had somehow survived long enough to accumulate rust, when some evil leaders don’t manage to keep their building standing long enough for the first coat of paint to dry. Whoever it was running it, they knew what they were doing.

This was the sort of thing I lived to investigate. I have the power to turn invisible, and made my living, then, sneaking into this sort of base to report on what happened inside, but getting here had not been easy even for me. I had to stow away on a submarine bound for somewhere suspicious, keep hidden behind stacked boxes long enough to get some sleep on the journey, and then escape into this building, apparently an distribution centre for whatever illicit goods were being transported.

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