Knowing the Stranger

“Is something supposed to happen?” Vorcum asked himself.

He felt sleepy and a little lightheaded, nothing more. He expected something grand to explode with all the candles and the lightning and the green smoke and the big show. But, all he felt was tired. It seemed he had waited an age until finally, he gave up. “Master, I don’t think this is –” he tried to say, but then he opened his eyes and saw his body floating above him.


The magicians surrounded him in deep meditation, connected by their intense kinetic energy. A ring of storms electrified, zapped, and snapped between their bodies as if they were alive; they attacked, danced, and cracked their relentless power, which sometimes changed color with their frequency. Sparks of yellow, red, and blue broke the bright white blinding light. The necromancers, themselves, were master conduits, perfectly still as if there was nothing else in the universe but their own minds.

Vorcum, however,  could not break away from strange revelation that he was looking at his own ass.

Even his clothing didn’t seem to realize he was no longer on the table. It was as if his entire physical body was suspended on a slate of the clearest crystal, and his backside was now in front of him.

He wondered what would happen if he tried to touch his back. So, he reached out and fell.

It was as if an invisible trap door sprung. He fell down, down, down, deep into the blackest black, an abyss of air. He screamed, but heard no sound outside his thoughts. He kept screaming and flailing, trying to grab hold of something, anything that might be hidden in the pitch. He was blind, deaf, mute, and numb. It seemed an endless age before he was able to sense something…

…a tingle in his feet, a wisp of cold. A soft whisper of a breeze brushed his soul and he shivered.

The dark lifted to gray.

He raised his hands in front of his face and found that they were not hands, but images of what they once were. There was no definition, but definite impressions of hands attached to hologram limbs. He felt an itch on his nose, but there was nothing to scratch. It was unclear if his vision was faulty or the shimmering shades of gray impressions of a familiar plane were clear.

He tried to move his feet, but failed. His legs hardly existed, just impressions like his hands. “But, I was able to move my hands, why not my feet?” he wondered. Then he realized he expected his legs to move independently, instinctively, while he raised his hands with purpose. So, with this, he willed his legs to move deliberately and they obeyed. They did not touch anything that could be construed as ‘ground,’ but they pulled and stretched as they did in life. In a short while, he realized that they did not have to move at all, and discovered that he could propel his body by the will of his mind.

However, the one sense that was keener than ever was his hearing. The voices, sounds, songs, and whispers jostled and swished everywhere, from anywhere, from anything to everything.

“Listen,” he remembered his master say. Listening was the first lesson of Rathma and now he understood why – everything around him was energy. When energy moves, it creates vibration and with vibration…sound. He was listening to the ions frictating, the heartbeats that once were, the chlorophyll slithering from the leaves to the roots, and the explosions of the stars from many ways away. He was listening to thoughts that once had a living source, but no longer. He heard songs sung from the heavens, croaks and screams from the hells. And yet, he was not agitated. The sounds felt as normal as breathing air once did.

He explored his surroundings. He noticed crystals and strange plants sprouted neighborly; roaring volcanoes erupted in the distance, but made no ash; rushing water sounds came from sandy patches; and there was no color anywhere. Yet, he perceived the leaves as green because his mind remembered them to be so and he saw the crystals in brilliant hues, sparkling under the joint sun and moonlight above.

He did not feel trapped or free.

He did not feel anything. That is, until he heard one very prominent sound in his language: “Bird boy.”

Vorcum had never heard that voice before.

“Bird boy. Hear me!”

He tried to speak, but no words came out.

“I know you hear me! I know you can hear my voice,” she said. She sounded strong, but desperate. “Do you know who I am?”

He couldn’t say, but he knew. He showed her by willing his knees to bend and his head to bow. Rathma.

“Yes, my child. I am Rathma, the keeper of the balance, mother of the necromancers.”

He nodded his head. Her voice was soothing and powerful, comforting and frightening. He wanted to weep, but had no tears.

“Do not fret my son. I know all my children future, present, and past. But, you must hear me now. Sanctuary is in its gravest danger.”

He lifted his head.

“The heavens are falling. The heavens are falling! You must alert Ordan and find my bones or they shall fall to our final destruction.”

He opened his mouth –

“Get Ordan, my bird boy. Find my bones…find my bones…” the begging faded.

So overcome by the invisible visit, he busied his mind to remember: Ordan, Rathma, heavens are falling, find the bones. He repeated the mantra over and over until the gray became black once again.

Ordan, Rathma, heavens, find the bones…

Ordan – “Vorcum.”

Rathma – “Vorcum, rise again.”

Heavens are – “Vorcum, return to the circle.”

Find the bones…”Find the bones…find the bones.”

“Vorcum?” Chaos asked. “Hey, little man. You with us?”

He felt groggy, weak, and disoriented. “Heavens,” he moaned.

“Chaos, let me speak with him,” the master softly commanded. He leaned over the boy and said, “Child, tell me. You’re safe and you’re home again. What is it you are saying? Tell me.”

Vorcum wanted to go back to sleep, but Chaos stepped in and said, “Oh no. Don’t slip back.” and brought him a glass of water. He tilted his head and made him drink. Swallowing was difficult. Finding his reflexes and using his muscles felt like the greatest challenge.

“Master,” Vorcum addressed in a daze. He took deep breaths to fill his emptied lungs. “Master? What is an Ordan?”

The elder tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Why do you ask, young one?”

“I heard her. I heard Rathma.”

The coven gasped.

The master raised his hand for silence. “Vorcum, look at me,” the master said firmly. “Look into my eyes right now.” The boy obeyed and did as he was told. The master stared deep into his apprentice’s pupils and softly, but firmly determined, “He speaks the truth.” Vorcum now had everyone’s complete attention. “Please, child, you must tell me everything you heard.”

“I heard…everything. Everything was speaking, everything sounded like everything else.”

“You went to the unknown lands. Did you see a light?” Vorcum strained to shake his head, but he managed. It was still easier than speaking. “That is good then. You didn’t go far and that is good. Continue.”

“She called me ‘bird boy.’ She said ‘Get Ordan. Sanctuary is in danger. The heavens are falling. Find my bones’.”

The pale face of the elder drained to white. His eyes widened and he seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

“Ordan?” Chaos asked. “Who’s Ordan?”

The master looked up at him and said, “He’s me.” He looked down at Vorcum and brushed his hair out of his youthful face, paternally and said, “So, young one. You are the omen that has been foreseen.” He shook his head. “I am so sorry for your burden. But, I promise I will do all I can so you will not have to take this journey alone.”

Chaos asked, “What journey?”

The master looked at him and said, “What the boy just said…to find Rathma’s bones.”

Stormcrow, the second elder asked, “But, great sir, it has been thousands of suns and moons since Rathma stole and gave breath. Where do we even begin?”

The master took a deep breath. “Where, indeed…?”

Next chapter: “Training in Chaos”
Previous chapter: “A Lesson in Dying”


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