This story begins here.
“The War of Darkness,” Old Thad repeated to us as we sat bolt upright, staring back at him. Our minds were barely able to believe what he was speaking – and yet, he somehow banished all doubt. “The worst moment of humanity. And yet, it was the best it could have been.”
“The powers to reach the gods? They are beyond your imagining,” Old Thad confided to us. “And so many men were burned out by just trying to channel that level of power. But other men, they were changed by its touch. They were twisted, turned into shells of themselves, driven by nothing but the desire that kept the atoms of their bodies held together.
“And there was no caring of what had to be sacrificed to reach those goals.
“Throughout it all, I stood by. I had lost my gift. I could do nothing against these men who built their towers to the sun, blotting out its light as they strove to rend open reality itself. So I did the only thing that I could think of. I picked up a blade, a little scrap of useless metal, and I swore to bring an end to the attempts.”
Old Thad once again looked down at his hands. “Perhaps I was selfish,” he admitted. “I wanted no one else to have what I had. But I knew that it was too much power for humanity. It would destroy us all, even if we didn’t all die in the attempt to reach it. So I, alone, powerless, stood against it.
“The first few wizards didn’t even know what I was doing. They died quickly, easily. The later ones knew what I wanted, what I tried to do, and they did their best to stop me. But I knew every trick they used. I had done it all. Discovered most of their secrets. And one by one, I brought them down.
“And so,” Old Thad confessed, “I became an angel of death. I visited genocide upon the wizarding race. And I became The Ender.”
“Eventually, enough damage had been done to make my intentions clear. The rest of the wizards, fearful of what I would do to them, agreed to stop their attempts to reach the gods. An accord was struck, an agreement forged in blood and fear. But it held. For as long as I existed, none dared to violate the agreement. And I would exist for perpetuity.”
Thaddeus shrugged his shoulders, working out the knot that had been forming in them as he had hunched forward. “And it still holds,” he said. “All of those who signed, who wrote it, are now long gone. Even their memories have faded into obscurity. But I remain. And now, I work here, to ensure that such circumstances never arise again. There will never again be a call for The Ender.”
Thaddeus slid forward, standing up from his desk. For as long as I could remember, the man had been a hunched little goblin – a caricature of the old, forgetful wizard. A figure to be mocked, to be parodied. But now, he straightened up, stood tall and proud. And it seemed as though the rest of reality dimmed, as if he was all that existed. And it filled me with a fear I’d never before felt.
“This will never be spoken of again,” Thaddeus commanded. We knew that we could do nothing but obey. “This will be kept to yourselves, never shared. All true wizards know this, but it is never spoken about. But it will remain with you, in your souls, until the end of your days.
“This is my lesson on the dark side of your power, on what you can become. And you will never become this. For I exist, and I say that it is so.”
We all filed out of Old Thad’s classroom after the hour had ended, every last one of us silent. Nobody spoke of what Thaddeus had told us. He had gone on, laying out the framework of true power, showing us the horror and destruction we could create. He painted a picture in darkness, a picture where every color was black, scraping it into our souls with a knife as his paintbrush.
But around the corners, the older students were waiting for us. “Hey,” one of them greeted us, patting my shoulder gently. “He has that effect, doesn’t he? Best not to think about it too much right now. C’mon, the hall’s open for lunch. Let’s eat.”
The older students somehow managed to break that tension. And now, we walked away from the classroom, unable or unwilling to look back at the room where the man remained after we had left.
Thaddeus Constellariae the Ender. Powerless, lacking even the slightest magical ability. And the true victor of the War of Darkness, the most powerful wizard to have existed.