We were all spellbound, staring at Old Thad – which was especially remarkable, as he had just revealed that he could do no magic. Why was he a professor at a magical academy? Who was this man, to teach us about magic, when he couldn’t even do that which he taught? We were filled with confusion, frustration, even rage. And yet, we needed to know why. We listened, and Old Thad spoke.
“I have been here,” Old Thad spoke, in his old and dry voice, “for far longer than you can imagine. I have been here long before this school stood, before the idea of teaching magic was more than a passing thought. When I learned these spells, there was no structure. Magic ran wild.”
Old Thad tilted his head back, his gaze lost in his memories. “I don’t think that I was the first wizard,” he said, his voice so far away, “but I was one of the first. We didn’t know why we could call forth this power, why certain gestures and actions seemed to create these effects. We had to learn through doing, through trying. Nothing was recorded, or passed on. Magic was a secret to be hoarded.”
“But we were determined,” Old Thad laughed. “Perhaps we had to be, to persist with such insanity. Our friends, colleagues, competitors, they all died by the day. We teach you how one wrong word can turn a spell’s power back on the castor. We found this out through trials, learned these lessons in blood.
“And yet, we continued. And oh, the things that we did!” Old Thad’s voice had a deeper strength to it, a tone we’d never heard from the ancient man before. “There were no rules then. Nothing to hold us back, to force us into structure. We were titans, rulers of the world! We bent reality and shaped it to our will!
“And for a lucky few, we met the gods.”
The entire class was frozen. Our mouths hung open as we listened. The gods? Old Thad spoke this so casually, as though he was going out for a spot of tea. We couldn’t even fathom the power he spoke of.
“The gods,” Old Thad repeated, shaking his head. “Now, that was a bit of magic that I’m glad to see has been lost to time. For the gods are cruel, capricious. And when I tore open the soul of the world to find them, they offered me a choice for my hubris.”
Old Thad spread his hands wide. “I think they were concerned by my power,” he said. “Is that presumptuous? Perhaps. But I think that I scared them at some level. And so they offered me a taste of their power. Immortality – for my gift.”
Old Thad stared out at us in our desks, and his gaze was filled with judgment. “What would you do?” he asked, and we all had to pull our eyes away instead of staring back into that infinity within his pupils. “Would you give up all that you’d learned – to exist until the end of time?”
After a moment, Old Thad took a deep breath. “I know what I did,” he said, looking down at his hands. “I made the trade.”
“Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. No, I couldn’t keep what I had done a secret. And soon, others wanted what I had. I never revealed my secrets, and I don’t think anyone else ever truly met the gods. And thank goodness. I can’t even imagine what destruction that could have unleashed upon the world. Even a pale shadow nearly broke us apart.”
Here, Thaddeus paused. He was looking out at us as if waiting for the answer. And I knew what he was speaking about. “The War of Darkness,” I said, my voice barely audible.
But Old Thad caught my words, and he nodded. “Yes,” he confirmed. “The great war. When man attempted to fight the gods…”
To be concluded!