Howdy all. TrapJaw here. I sat down again after many years and wrote this short bit of fiction and thought that I'd post it to see if anyone might like it.
The flavor of my stuff tends to be more in the vein of the original mini-comics (you know, barbarian He-Man, Mineternian-kind of stuff) mixed with bits from the other iterations of MotU that struck my fancy. It tends to be darker than the cartoon-stuff, so if this milieu of MotU isn't your cup 'o tea, you have been warned.
Anyway, hope you enjoy it.
The Mages' Apprentice
“A mage's most important tools are not only his spell-casting ability, but his wisdom, his patience, and his wits. Now, what are the Tenets of Sorcery according to Shokoti and why are they fundamentally wrong?”
When the answer was not immediately offered, the Arch Mage Hyridor looked up from his scroll and across the bright and sumptuously appointed library to find his apprentice engrossed in a book and oblivious to the lesson that he was attempting to impart. The mage's reddish-tinged skin flushed a darker crimson as his patience was once again tested by the headstrong young man. Slowly inhaling, he began a meditation technique that he often used when the youth wore on his nerves, clasping his hands together and interweaving his fingers into a seemingly impossible pattern before they were swallowed up by the voluminous sleeves of his dull green and gold robes, the colors denoting his mastery of magic. After a few moments, calm at last returned to the mage, his skin once again lightening to its typical slightly reddish complexion. It was then that he spoke.
“I trust that I am not boring you with today's lesson, my ever-eager apprentice?”
The sharp tone of the wizard's question immediately roused his student from his daydream. The slight youth, dark-haired and golden-skinned, looked up from the ancient tome that had so thoroughly engrossed him to find his master regarding him with a look of weary impatience. After the jolt of having his thoughts interrupted passed, his own expression mirrored that of his teacher's as he answered.
“Actually, Master Hyridor, I do find today's lesson a bit tedious. Mayhap you could broach some new subject instead of attempting to endlessly repeat past lessons?”
The magician seemed to glide across the length of the palace library, stopping at the table where the young man was seated in a richly upholstered chair, His protégé never failed to look slightly out of place in this place of learning, the bright greens and golds of the youth's shimmering samite coat contrasting with the dusty and worn collection of books and scrolls that he always collected around him. Hyridor looked at the particular book that had so enthralled his student and had surmised exactly which of his numerous books it was before even laying his eyes upon it. When he saw that his intuition was correct, his tired expression hardened into a mask of disappointment.
“And I find your obsession with this particular subject tiresome, young one. I also find the fact that you seem to regard it as being more important than learning the ways of spellcraft and the secrets of wizardry to be infuriating,” Hyridor retorted, his bushy black brows furrowing as he spoke.
Undaunted, the youth sighed. “I already know the fundamentals of spell-casting, Master Hyridor, and the highly-vaunted 'secrets' of wizardry that you speak of so reverently are nothing more than base trickery used to fool and beguile those ignorant of the true ways of magic.”
Hyridor's pale yellow eyes seemed to blaze as his student spoke. “Deception is a potent tool for all magicians. More than one mage has found a battle won or their life spared due to a foe's overestimation of their abilities.”
The apprentice waved his hand dismissively. “Which is all well and good for most dabblers and conjurers, but we are capable of far more than they. Did you not say as much to my father, Master?”
“Aye, I did at that. You have the potential to be counted amongst the greatest mages Eternia has ever seen.”
The apprentice smiled arrogantly. “'Perhaps even great enough to become a sorcerer that could rival those that lived in the time of the Ancients.' Those were your words, I believe.”
This time the master mirrored the smug expression of his student. “Aye, they were spoken by me and are still as true now as when I first uttered them, but only if you manage to survive that long, my very young apprentice. Youth often fills one with feelings of invincibility and a surety of one's capability, both of which are brutally dispelled by the experiences of life...if one is fortunate to survive the poor decisions brought about by these foolish notions. It is true that you were born with the strongest affinity to magic that I have ever heard of. Your eyes and skin bares the coloration of a potent magician. At sixteen years of age, you've learned the art of spell-casting with such ease that your ability rivals those of most seasoned journeyman wizards. And yes, you may one day learn to be a great Sorcerer, but only if you heed the lessons of those that have toiled before you.”
The apprentice looked at his master with his golden hued eyes and his expression softened. “I apologize, Master. I am much like my brother in that patience is often difficult concept for me to understand, much less master. As you have said, learning the ways of wizardry has come easily to me—so much so that further study of it seems repetitive and causes my mind to wander.”
“Patience is essential to a wizard, as I said before,” Hyridor said soberly. “It is of the utmost importance that you learn all that I can teach you, for one day, you will be the Arch Mage and chief advisor to the Royal Family. If you wish to progress to that level of mastery, you must learn patience and focus. If you do not, mastery of the craft shall never be yours and we will both have failed in the eyes of our king. I know that you do not wish to disappoint your father, Keldor.”
The youth fiddled with the gold embroidery on his sleeve for a moment as the words of his master sank in, then he looked back at the arch mage. “You are correct, Master Hyridor. I must learn patience.”
Hyridor regarded his apprentice with a tight smile and a nod. “I ask you again,” he started. “What are the Tenets of Sorcery according to Shokoti and why are they fundamentally wrong?”
Keldor thought for a moment before answering and then said, “The Tenets of Sorcery were a collection of rules that would one could follow to supposedly achieve the highest level of magical ability. In summation, they stated that Sorcery can most easily be learned by first studying every form of magic on Eternia, both high and low, and by studying the magical practices of the other Known Worlds.”
“What is the flaw in this methodology?”
“The perceived flaw is that it is impractical. To study every form of magic would take more time than even an arch mage possesses, even with their greatly extended lives. Also, it is supposedly impossible to study some of the magics of the other Known Worlds, as they function differently than those of Eternia.”
Hyridor smirked. “I assume by your statement that you disagree with the proven error contained in Shokoti's theorem?”
The youth leaned forward. “Yes, I think that perhaps her ideas may have some merit.”
“I do agree that her ideas would not work for most modern mages, as they spend their entire lives seeking mastery of their particular field. Wizards, elementalists, alchemists, and even practitioners of low magics like warlocks, necromancers, and shamans attempt to gain mastery of their specific field of magic during their lives and few ever achieve it.”
As his apprentice spoke, Hyridor opened a stone box that sat upon the table and from it removed an ivory pipe that had been ornately carved to resemble the roaring head of a dragon. He also removed a bag containing Perpetuan Lilac, his favorite pipe-weed blend to smoke when engaging in these types of discussions and debates with his pupil and loaded the pipe with it. As the youth finished, he conjured a flame from his fingertip and lit the strongly aromatic mixture of herbs. As he slowly puffed on the pipe, the dragon's eyes glowed.
“However, I imagine that you also believe that it would be possible for one that displayed an affinity for magic from birth,” he said as he exhaled the rich smoke. “One that could master a given field of magic in a relatively short time should surely be able to do so with others. Is this your way of thinking?”
Keldor nodded and fanning the pipe-smoke away from himself as he usually did. “As you said, in but five years I have shown an understanding and ability with wizardry that take most practitioners twenty or thirty to accomplish. Wizardry is the most difficult and time-consuming form of magic that there is to learn and master, aside from sorcery. If I can achieve your level of mastery in but a few more years, how hard could it be to learn the lesser forms of magic?”
Hyridor puffed again on his pipe thoughtfully before answering. “Aye, 'tis true that wizardry is the highest form of magic, difficult to learn and even harder to master. However, while one might master the art of wizardry, this does not necessarily mean that one can so easily master other forms of magic. Many are inborn, like elementalism. Others have practices that would seem to run counter to the methods and ways of wizardry. Then there are those forms of magic that are so abhorrent, so inherently foul that they taint those that would dare to use them.”
“Yes, wise Arch Mage,” Keldor began smugly, thinking that he had found the fallacy in his master's argument. “If one used them. But studying something and using it are not one in the same.”
Hyridor snorted, and the jets of smoke the issued forth from his nostrils when coupled with the lambent yellow glow of his eyes made him seem not all that different than the dragon that adorned his pipe. “And magic does not work that way, young one. On cannot merely study the methodology of a magical field and completely understand it, one must practice it. When I was born, I was marked by my reddish skin as having a magical affinity for fire. As I grew older, I learned that it would not burn me as it did others. Eventually, I was found by a fire elementalist and taught how to use this gift to bend fire to my will. However, as I can control fire, it also has its influence over me. I am temperamental and outspoken,as you well know, and cannot abide the cold or deep water. The elemental magic that I wield has marked me, as surely as the high magic that you have an affinity for has marked you, Keldor.”
“And yet as I was born touched by high magic instead of the elements, the God Beasts, or the Realms of the Dead, am I not also fortunate, for high magic has no influence? It permeates the entirety of the universe, favoring no particular aspect of it. Was I not born to transcend the workings of wizardry's base spell-casting and learn the ways of sorcery's direct manipulation of magical energy? Can I not master these other lower forms of magic as I have wizardry?” Keldor asked.
Hyridor placed his pipe down in its holder. “Do you think that this is what limits you, young prince? That you can rise past what you see as the limits of wizardry to directly influence the fabric of high magic without the use of spells, by your will alone?”
Hyridor moved to the book that had earlier distracted his charge. He pointed at the illustration of the skull-faced castle that the boy had been staring at. “Now I see the reason behind your fascination with that dreadful old heap. You believe the legends of sorcerers guarding Castle Grayskull to be true and that you might somehow learn their secrets?”
Keldor angrily folded his arms. “I don't see why the tales concerning Grayskull should be any less true than any of the others that we have studied. Anytime I broach the subject, I am chastised or ridiculed for believing in fanciful tales. Why is this the one subject that I am not allowed to research or discuss, Master?
Hyridor forcefully closed the book and cradled it in he crook of his arm. “Because it is forbidden, Keldor! Castle Grayskull is cursed by the evil acts that was committed there by countless demons and madmen. Your own ancestor, wise Thranor, First King of Eternos, forbade any to disturb that accursed fortress, lest they awaken the evil that lies within its walls. You know this, as well as I, from Thranor's Saga.”
Keldor jumped to his feet to stand face-to-face with his teacher, a bold move so out of character for the normally quiet youth that it caused the arch mage to take a step back.
“You lie!” the young prince spat angrily. “I have read Thranor's Saga—not the altered one that has been read to me everyday of my life, but the true version that you keep secreted away in your hidden vault with your other precious books that you deem to dangerous for any but yourself to read.”
Hyridor's eye blazed angrily and the air around him shimmered with heat. “How dare you violate the orders of your father and myself! You were told never to...”
“How dare you deceive me, teacher!” Keldor raged. “Since the first moment of my apprenticeship you have spoken so highly of truth and enlightenment, and yet you lie to me and keep secrets. You spoke of deception as being a potent tool to employ against one's enemies—is that what I am, Master? Your enemy?”
Before the arch mage could answer, Keldor continued.
“I know what the true Saga states—that there is a lineage of sorcerers that guard Castle Grayskull and that one of Thranor's line is destined to sit upon the throne of Grayskull and lay claim to all of the castle's secrets. 'From Grayskull's throne shall this man rule Eternia and the other Known Worlds with wisdom and power.'”
Keldor leaned toward his mentor. “That is what the true version of Thranor's Saga states,” he hissed.
“Patience!” thundered Hyridor. “Had you patience, the true version of Thranor's Saga would have been revealed to you in time, just as it was to all of your bloodline when they came of age. Alas, your impatience has cost you dearly. Cost you the trust and faith of your teacher. And I dread to see the outcome after I tell King Miro of your transgression, young prince.”
“Oh alas!” Keldor cried, theatrically holding his clasped hands to his breast. “The great warrior king shall once again be disappointed by his weakling of a son! Thankfully he has his favorite, the great lout Randor, loved by one-and-all, to once again give him solace from yet another failure by that witch-blooded Keldor.”
Hyridor moved to strike the young prince across the face, but found the blow to be so weak and ineffectual that it was easily intercepted by his apprentice. Confused, he regarded Keldor with a quizzical expression, which the boy returned with a knowing smile.
“According to what you told my father last night, in what you supposed was the utter privacy of this library, I have become an accomplished wizard, yet I have not meet the criteria necessary to become a mage as of yet—a mage being a magician that is highly skilled in more than one field of magical knowledge. For instance, you, Master Hyridor are a master fire elementalist, and presumed yourself to be a peerless wizard, as you've so proudly informed everyday of my very long apprenticeship under you.”
As Keldor spoke, Hyridor found the strength continuing to drain from his body. He started to swoon, but the young prince caught him and gently placed him in the overstuffed chair that the arch mage so often sat. Hyridor tried to speak, but found only faint gasps escaping his throat.
“If I may be so bold,” Keldor continued. “I should like to posit that I be considered for the title of Mage. I don't dare to presume that I could or should be held in the same lofty regard as an Arch Mage such as you, Master, but I do feel that my mastery of wizardy can only be complimented with the other field of study that I've been engaging in without your knowledge—alchemy. Herbalism, in particular.”
Keldor reached into his his regal coat and removed a small bag. “Did you know that there is a plant that grows in the Vine Jungles that border the Dark Lands that has some fascinating properties. Skull Bloom is mostly odorless and tasteless, and when its burned and the smoke is inhaled, it causes a person to fall into a state of paralysis. The shamans there use it to make their sacrificial victims more 'compliant' to their rituals. It's so powerful that they use very small amounts of it, so that their victims are still aware of what happening to them. Larger doses, like the one that I mixed into your pipe-weed blend are so potent that they can even paralyze the heart eventually. It is a potent poison and the only known way to counteract is to drink a rather foul smelling brew of similarly exotic roots. I can assure you that it tastes as bad as it smells.”
As Keldor spoke, Hyridor could indeed feel his pulse slowing. He tried to concentrate to cast a spell, but found his mind foggy and unable to focus. His vision began to swim as his student leaned down so close their noses nearly touched.
“As you can see, I already knew the value of deception to a magician, so today's lesson was as most of late have been—an utter waste of my time. However, before you die, I did want to thank you. While you thought otherwise, I did learn patience from you. It took me months to procure that Skull Bloom. Months that I had to spend listening to you endlessly regurgitating the same old tired lessons that were already known to me when I first heard you speak them. Months spent knowing that you were lying to me. Months spent knowing that you were actively thwarting my education. I was tempted to remove you with a more mundane poison, but they are so easily traced. The Skull Bloom will simply make it seem as if blustery old Hyridor's heart finally gave out after one too many rages. No suspicion of foul play.”
Summoning what little remained of his strength, Hyridor spoke. “You would betray those that loved you best? Those that will take a terrible revenge when that betrayal is discovered? You would dare this?” he gasped before collapsing.
The prince quirked an eyebrow. “I dare anything,” he answered matter-of-factly. “I am Keldor.”
After many years and leagues of travels had separated him from his former life, Prince Keldor had learned much more about magic and its many myriad forms. However, time and distance had brought him no any closer to his goals of understanding the way of sorcery or claiming the throne of Castle Grayskull. After his quest had led him across nearly all of the realms of Eternia, his desperation at last led him to the Dark Lands of the Horde, where he sought a new master to teach him the foulest and most forbidden forms of magic.
“A mage's most important tools are not only the strength and powers of his spells, but his ruthlessness, his ambition, and his cunning,” the demonic Hordak said as addressed the acolytes that were assembled before him in the dank, torch-lit temple. “Now, what are the Failings of Necromancy according to Eldor the Supposedly Wise and why are they wrong?”
Keldor smiled. At last he had found a mentor from which he could complete his education.
"HA! If such as you are the best that this world can muster, then it is already won!" Trap-Jaw, from the Menace of Trap-Jaw!