The Smith had no idea that his actions would cause his island to be destroyed. After he had created the rings of power, the island drowned, only to remain a place of myth below sea-level. The sheer magnitude of the magic he had released had proven to be the ultimate downfall.
A long, long time ago, at the foot of the mountains of a remote island, Cartius lived as a shepherd. He lived there with his flock, minding his own business. He did not necessarily dislike people, he merely thought animals were better companions than humans. He used to live in a small town a few miles from the mountains. He worked as a smith together with his father, but ever since his old man died three years ago, young Cartius retreated from town life. He liked to be on his own, staying in touch with animals, the trees and the mountains.
One day, as he was chasing a runaway sheep, he saw red and blue lights coming from a cave in the mountain closest to his hut. Guided by his curiosity, he went after the lights. Never had he seen any lights coming from that cave before.
He entered the cave, only to find more lights of different colors shining on the walls: yellow, orange, green, white, and purple. They came from somewhere deeper inside the cave. Cartius continued to walk further until the lights started to shine even brighter. At last, he arrived in a circular space in which he found seven gemstones deeply rooted in a curved stone wall. The gemstones shined brightly as he entered as if to welcome him. The stones looked marvelous and were as big as a sheep’s head. Cartius thought he could stare at them all day.
Suddenly, a pickaxe appeared. As if guided by some mystical power, Cartius knew he had to chop off a piece of each of the stones. With a subtle and gentle tick, he quickly gathered seven beautiful, glimmering stones. In awe of his treasure, he walked home. He had completely forgotten to chase after his lost sheep.
Back at his shed, he started a fire. In a cabinet, he kept small chunks of gold he had found on his land. He melted the lot in a ladle above the fire, his eyes reflecting the reddish light of the hot gold. Carefully, he poured it into a round mold. Then, he waited.
When the gold liquid had once more turned into solid gold, the man spent months refining the golden ring. He carved one big hold in the middle, for the brightest and biggest of his collected gemstones. Then Cartius shaped the stones in different sizes. A square, a marquise, an oval, a radiant, every stone was unique. On both sides of a big white gemstone, Cartius carved three more holes in the shapes of the different stones.
When he had finally finished forging the ring, it looked magnificent. Now all seven stones were united in one ring. The colors of the stones reflected on the ceiling of his hut. He put the ring on and was blinded by a sudden light. He felt such immense power like he was able to change the world, the land, the species, and all of the elements. In a matter of seconds, he had learned of seven elementary powers. He could conjure fire, water, and air, he could bend metals, summon thunder, summon and process wood and turn any element into ice. In addition, he could see another, parallel world.
The parallel world seemed a copy of the regular, human world, except it was pure nature. There had been no interference by people yet, magical or human. To Cartius the existence of that mirror world made sense. It could act as the perfect place to hide a magical community.
Overwhelmed by the power of his ring, he made a decision. He could not carry such power alone. He knew that. One man was easily corrupted into using that power for his own personal gain. By magic, he forged seven more rings. He made seven replicas of all the stones too. First, Cartius conjured up more gold from his land. The rocks turned red as they were melted in the air. He did not need to put them in a ladle and heat them above a fire anymore. Cartius waved his hand and split the gold into seven pieces. He watched as they shaped into rings with a simple gesture.
He made one change to every ring to make them unique. Every ring ought to have one dominant stone, one dominant power. He took out the gemstones from his own, original ring. Carefully, he placed one of each of the originals on one of the seven new rings. He placed them in the middle, flanked by three replicas on either side. The future Ring Bearers would be able to control the seven elements just like Cartius could.
The next day, he went back to the cave to collect seven more cuts from the big gemstones that were stuck in the cave wall. Again, he shaped and polished them before he put them in the now empty slots in his own ring. This time, the power of his ring felt not as omnipotent as the first time. Like the second forging was weaker. However, Cartius felt more at ease with this type of power. He was powerful still, and his ring was stronger than the seven others he had.
The burden of his powers and its opportunities weighed less. It felt eerie to hold so much power alone. He alone should not be responsible for the protection of the world. He decided he would give that power to seven strangers, dispersed across the continents.
In Cartius’s ideal world, seven magical leaders would share the power for the prosperity of the world and for peace. To balance out the power.
Before Cartius would embark on his worldwide quest, he needed to explore his powers. A task he enjoyed to the fullest. In the next months, he played with his magical elements. He summoned more rock from the earth to close the cave. He thought it best no other person should find this place.
He went about the island, changing the barren dry land into fruition. The island suddenly became rich with natural elements and reserves. There were many species settling there all of a sudden, and slowly a city started forming at the edge of the mountains. Once it had only been occupied by him and his sheep. Now, he had company. For the first time in his life, he did not mind. He spent his years as a smith again. Forging jewelry, weapons, and furniture. Cartius knew many of the new inhabitants by name. He welcomed them into his home. He had some apprentices who not only learned everything about becoming a smith, they learned other lessons from Cartius too.
He was a good orator, and he liked the art of rhetoric. Some viewed him as an idealist. Someone who was convinced that people should work together in harmony for the prosperity and evolvement of the world. No one, however, knew he could perform the most unimaginable magic.
The city grew and grew ever more prosperous. When Cartius wanted some peace of mind or worked on new magical inventions and his plan for a magical society, he hid in the parallel world. Every day, Cartius spent his evening hours writing there. He wrote about a magical society, to be led by seven Ring Bearers in different continents. He documented all that he had learned while exploring his magical abilities. He had written laws and legislation. Most importantly, he clearly mapped out how the magical community could grow and supplement the human society. There was one caveat, humans must be protected from finding out about the magical society. The Continents of the Ring Bearers must be kept hidden in the parallel universe he discovered.
In the parallel universe, on the exact same spot as his shed at the edge of the mountains, he had already built a small castle, out of sight from the humans. Hidden in the parallel world. Cartius disliked disrupting it, but he needed to hide his future magical society.
One day a young man arrived at his doorstep. He was seventeen. His name was Sigurd. Sigurd was a bright young man, with a muscular build and long blond hair. There were always women around him, adoring him. But he took no notice. Sigurd had one goal, to learn everything he could from the mysterious smith.
Gradually, Cartius took a liking to him. The boy was eager to learn, and a good conversationalist. Cartius was sure he had found his first Ring Bearer.
On his eighteenth birthday, Sigurd received a ring of power. He received the ring with the dominant white gemstone, the element of Ice. On that day, Cartius began teaching the boy all he had learned about the magical elements. Sigurd had a natural knack for magic and soon he grew equally as powerful as Cartius.
Sigurd became an important part of Cartius’s development of the magical society. The boy had a talent for politics and he played an integral part in coming up with the magical laws. It was Sigurd who gave the parallel world its name: The Continents.
After a year of training, Cartius and his apprentice had finished the book Cartius had been writing for over a decade. It was known as the Book of Creation and it contained the wisdom, rules, and regulations of the magical society still used in modern society.
It was time for the next chapter in the story of magic. Cartius and Sigurd made a boat. They summoned wood from the forest. They forged and created the boat themselves. With that boat, they sought out to find six more Ring Bearers. The boat needed no captain for it was sailed by the power of both their rings. The two men enjoyed each other’s company. They philosophized about the world, their ideal world and how they would preserve both human and magical kind.
After weeks on the water, they finally settled on land. It was a beautiful and vast island. Full of jungles and beautiful creatures. Most places, however, were dry and barren. Cartius identified dozens of new animals he had never seen before.
Cartius carried the six remaining rings in his pocket. The only thing was, he had no idea how to find the right Ring Bearers! He gave the first one to Sigurd based on a hunch, however, when he handed the young man the ring, the white stone briefly shimmered.
They traveled further on land, they placed smooth wooden wheels under their boat and used the power of their rings to ride it. Every day, Cartius checked the rings. On the tenth day, one of them started to shimmer. It was the orange gemstone with the power of metal.
They finally found a small village. The people dressed differently than they did. They simply wore a piece of cloth to cover their genitals. They looked strong, sun-kissed and rugged. Most had thick long and dark hair. They didn’t fear the newcomers, but the newcomers didn’t fear them either. Cartius and Sigurd spent two weeks in the village. They learned about their culture, habits and indigenous ways of living. Cartius walked around the village with the shimmering ring in his hand. The ring began to shine brightly in the presence of a man named Djalu. It was time to hand out the second ring.
When Cartius and Sigurd took Djalu for a walk, they conjured the portal to the parallel world. Djalu did not know what came over him. The man panicked and attacked the sparkling orange edges of the portal with his knife. Then, he turned to Cartius. Cartius looked relaxed, a smile curled on his lips. He held out his hand and the knife flew into it. Djalu merely blinked in disbelief.
It took Cartius and Sigurd a couple of days to reason with the man. In the few weeks Cartius and Sigurd spent at the village, Cartius had already managed to speak Djalu’s language, to the surprise and envy of Sigurd. At last, Djalu accepted his fate and presented his ring and power to his community. Naturally, they reacted the same as Djalu when he first experienced magic. This time, the fact that one of their fellow citizens could perform magic together with Djalu’s decisiveness and the fact that Djalu’s parents led the small community, resulted in the compliance of his people.
Another thing was that such power induced fear, and if there is one thing which makes people compliant it is the apprehension of the unknown.
Djalu proved to be an able magician. He managed to create a small lake on the edge of his village. However, he had also accidentally set fire to his own hut. Luckily, Sigurd came to the rescue and saved the man’s home.
Before they left Djalu’s village, the sorcerers needed to transfer Djalu’s family and fellow villagers to the parallel magical world. They became the first settlement in the parallel universe known as the Continents. This particular one would one day become known as Australia.
It took them another few weeks to build a village from scratch. Funnily enough, the lake created by Djalu was also present in this mirror world. Magic performed in the human world would also find its place in the Continents. The three men worked together to build huts, using materials from the woods and creating the buildings with magic.
Cartius was preparing their boat for another travel adventure. It was Sigurd who had another idea. He asked why Cartius had not thought of creating a faster way of transportation. They were after all magicians. With the elements of electricity and air, both Cartius and Sigurd experimented with a form of magic that allowed for magical beings being able to transport in the parallel world to another place within seconds. The only problem was; how did they know where they would end up? The answer, of course, lay in the power of the rings. Cartius noticed that the ring with the dominant orange stone lit up as soon as they arrived at Djalu’s land.
Now it was Cartius’s turn to surprise his pupil, he took a thick book from his trunk. It was written full of illegible scribbles in Cartius’s handwriting. This decision would have a major impact on the magical community as it still lives on today. He planned for all the villagers to receive a magical power too. Sigurd was once more in awe of his teacher. Naturally, the Ring Bearer’s subjects needed power, how else could a magical community be created and would the Continents imbue development?
The orange shaped square gemstone represented the power of metal. A valuable element at the time. Cartius touched Djalu’s ring. Nothing happened and Djalu looked disappointed. In his best effort to speak Djalu’s language, Cartius instructed the man that he was now able to copy his ring and award one replica with all stones to his heir and limitless copies containing just the orange gemstone.
Cartius promised to teach Djalu all he knew about his magic, but it came at a price. Djalu was to travel with him and Sigurd and seek the other future Ring Bearers. Once he got back, he would be able to teach his subjects and appoint a scholar. Cartius advised him to form some sort of courtly gathering too. He promised to teach him everything and come back once they completed their task.
Djalu said his goodbyes. A golden hoop appeared, their new form of transportation. Cartius touched the red gemstone on his ring and instructed his fellow Ring Bearers to do the same. Millions of orange lights surrounded the three men until they consumed them. Then, they were gone.
Red lights reappeared on a cliff. In the distance, they identified a high mountain. Cartius knew it to be a volcano. This assured him that this land was to be the place of Fire.
Djalu asked Cartius how they would be able to enter the human world again. Impatient, Sigurd touched the red gemstone again once they were outside the golden hoop. A portal appeared. Red flames encircled a round hole, showing them a jostling crowd gathered in a circle. The three men stepped in. The portal closed behind them and left a puff of smoke.
They approached the screaming men and women. All of them had black hair and a light skin color. Their eyes were somewhat smaller than theirs. When the group of people noticed the three strangers approaching, they backed away, pointing and whispering. They made way for the strangers and revealed two men in combat. Swords were clashing. They grunted as they tried to hit one another. It was like they danced. Cartius was both mesmerized and frightened. Sigurd played with a flame in his hand, but Cartius covered his hand. He reminded him that they should never publicly show their magic in front of humans. They wouldn’t understand. Especially not the adults for they had ceased wondering and expected a certain logic in life. Their magic would disrupt that.
Cartius checked the five remaining rings, like he thought, their magical journey to this new continent had brought them close to a potential Ring Bearer. The red gemstone which held the power of fire lit up.
People continued screaming at the fighting men, tension rose, and then the strongest of the two cut off the other’s hair bun. With a thud, it fell to the floor. Most of the people cheered, the others grunted. Coins were being handed over from one to another. The fighters bowed to each other. The victor was awarded a bottle and soon two women with white painted faces walked up to him, his gaze switched from one to the other as he smiled. The crowd slowly dispersed. The victor noticed the three newcomers and eyed them wearily. Slowly, he approached them, his right hand on his sword. The red gemstone shone ever so brightly. The man spoke in an unfamiliar tongue. However, Cartius once again had been able to communicate with the man.
The man told Cartius he was a samurai. His name was Ishiguru. He had saved a farmer’s town about a month ago together with some other samurai from an evil landlord looking to execute the farmers because they refused to pay their monthly contributions. He had both saved the city and come into some riches from the former landowner. Now he spent his days watching over the community and taking part in smaller matches, just for fun.
The samurai invited the three men into his home to meet his wife and newborn son. He opened the bottle and poured the men some rice wine. After the samurai’s wife and child went to bed, Cartius snapped his fingers and a flame appeared. The samurai instinctively reached for his sword. With his other hand, Cartius heated the metal of the sword until Ishiguru burned his hands.
“What is this? What are you?” Ishiguru shrieked.
“Fear not, Ishiguru. You have been chosen by the ring of Fire to become its master. These two gentlemen have received their power too.”
Then Cartius could see it in the samurai’s eyes, fear turned to hope. Ishiguru understood the possibilities that lay in such power.
To Sigurd’s dismay, Cartius awarded him a ring of power. The one with the dominant red coffin-shaped stone. The samurai was invited to join the assembly too. Ishiguro understood what Cartius asked of him and he was prepared to join the group to study magic.
The next day, he assembled some of his fellow samurai, the farmers and his trustees and moved them to the parallel world. Now with the four of them, it was easier to build a small village of about a dozen houses. At first the revelation of magic caused quite a stir, but Ishiguru’s friends caved for the same reasons Djalu’s people did. Ishiguru was a leader and the sight of magic induced fear among Ishiguru’s fellow villagers. When these villagers were later told they would be awarded a magical ability too, they were suddenly all too eager to comply.
Within a fortnight, the quartet teleported themselves to a new continent. The yellow stone lit up this time representing the element of Air. Again, they found themselves in a foreign and unfamiliar land. It was a sandy, desert-like city, men wore turbans and flapping robes. Women wore dark robes too and had almond-colored skin and beautiful thick black hair.
The four men came across a market. They stumbled upon a tall and very thin man who was telling a story to the people gathered around him. Cartius could identify some of it. The others could not. However, all were mesmerized by the rhythm and tone of the tall man’s voice. Then, from his turban, he conjured a snake. As he put the snake in a basket in front of him, it hissed and spurted towards the crowd. Children shrieked. Then the tall man played the flute and the snake instantly came to a halt and swayed in his basket. This man needed no real magic to perform a magical act. The yellow stone glimmered in Cartius’s hand. When the snake tamer had finished and collected his pay, he rose to greet the four foreigners. He spoke with wild gestures and harsh sounds with Cartius.
Sigurd just found it odd and was bored. Next to that, he did not like the fact that there was now a third newcomer even though he knew what he and his mentor were set out to do. He suddenly realized he did not like sharing Cartius with the others. On top of that, he wasn’t the only magician besides his mentor anymore. Regardless, the tall man was awarded the fourth ring. His name was Mektoub.
Now the group consisted of five. This time the move towards the parallel realm happened smoothly and quickly, within a week the men had built a small village of stone houses. In the background stood several pyramids, splendid in the setting sunlight. Mektoub was the first Ring Bearer not to act shocked or surprised by the sight of magic. He humbly accepted and gathered a small group of people to join his community.
The men teleported once more and blue lights surrounded them when they arrived at their destination. Before they entered the human world, Sigurd decided it would be a good idea to showcase his power. The new Arabian Ring Bearer almost passed out of fright. He had not seen much magic up to this point. And it seemed that Sigurd directed a blaze of fire towards the newcomer on purpose. The samurai drew his sword and managed to redirect the flames. Cartius rose and splashed the whole group with water. He took Sigurd aside and instructed him to wait until they had gathered the complete group of Ring Bearers, then they would learn all the elements. Sigurd and Ishiguru shot angry looks at each other as they entered a blue portal into the human world.
They came across a farm, where a young woman sat near the stalls, singing. Her song was breathtakingly beautiful. The five men sat down and listened. It was not until she was finished that she looked at them. Any usual girl would try to get away or scream at the sight of five strange men, but not Mary. Cartius’s blue gemstone flickered. He had found his European heir. Then, the woman’s father came out of the farmhouse, bow and arrow at the ready. He was shocked to find five odd-looking gentlemen in his garden, in front of his dear Mary. He fired and Cartius waved the arrow to the right where it hit the shed. The old farmer shot a few more until he was out of arrows. All of them ended up piercing the wooden shed. Cartius approached the farmer and reasoned with him. After what seemed like minutes, the farmer patted Cartius on the back and he turned, smiling at his crew. What was it that the old smith possessed that could influence people that way?
That night, the men rested and Cartius told them more about his ideas for the magical community he had envisioned. The woman’s parents prepared a feast and Mary sang some more songs. Cartius gave her the ring with the original blue gemstone. The element of Water.
After the six magicians had created yet another little village in the parallel world of the country known as France, they teleported themselves to another continent. North America.
It was an odd looking ensemble with the red-bearded Cartius and his envious blond and strong pupil Sigurd, Ring Bearer of the coldest of Continents. You had the rough Djalu with his long brown hair, the distinguished samurai Ishiguro, the storyteller Mektoub wearing white robes, and last, Mary the singer with blond hair up to her lower back and piercing blue eyes.
The group entered a camp consisting of pointy tents. They approached a group of people surrounding a bonfire. They had paint on their faces, and some wore feather ornaments on their heads. Smoke was coming from pipes and swirled in the air. Again, one of Cartius’s stones lit up, the purple one this time. But who would be the rightful receiver?
One of the people yelled and pointed at the newcomers. Then, everything happened quite fast. The women ran to the tents. The men attacked, using blowpipes and knives. Instinctively, the samurai countered the needles shot through the pipes, already using magic without being properly trained. With a wave of his sword, the needles burned in mid-air. Sigurd narrowed his eyes and pushed Ishiguru away. Now it was his turn to display his power, attracting all the knives at once, leaving the attackers empty-handed. Suddenly the inhabitants of the village fell to their knees and started chanting. The magic had had its desired effect.
Cartius had let everything happen. Clearly testing his apprentices. It left him with a weary heart. However, it was now time to speak to the head of the village. A middle-aged man with long grey hair, growing down to his waist. To many of his apprentices’ surprise, Cartius spoke their language too. Apparently, he asked who was the most gifted and responsible villager. The leader spoke and one of the female villagers went to seek someone. She returned with a man, who had equally as long hair as the leader did, except it was pure black. He had high cheekbones and a proud stance. He appeared to be the leader’s heir. This made Cartius think the leader would probably be more deserving of receiving the power, but he accepted the old man’s decision. The new Ring Bearer was called Wolfman. With his purple gemstone, he would be able to master the element of Electricity.
Wolfman’s fellow citizens packed their tents and belongings and moved into the parallel world.
Now the assembly of continental Ring Bearers was almost complete. They had one more stop to make.
The group teleported and reappeared in green lights. Cartius conjured up a portal and the seven of them entered a vibrant and bustling neighborhood. Children were running around, people were sitting on their porches, smoking, and drinking. A family was having dinner outside. Every once in a while, people came to bring pouches of coins to the mother. She collected them, weighed them and scribbled something on a sheet of papyrus. When people walked by, they bowed and revered her. Cartius eyed his ring and found the last original stone, the green gemstone to light up. He had found his last Ring Bearer.
Cartius talked to her as she sat there defiantly. One of her children sat on her lap trying to grab Cartius’s beard. She started a discussion, heavily gesturing with one free arm. Then, her sheet of paper caught fire and she jumped. Sigurd smiled.
Cartius had had the most difficulty convincing his final Ring Bearer to join the group. Her name was Mariana. Perhaps she was the one with the most to lose. Finally, the group was welcomed into her home. She poured them some drinks. Her children walked around the strangers, curious in their own right to see such odd-looking people. Cartius gifted her the last ring. Then, he spoke in a language they somehow now all understood:
“My dear Ring Bearers, we’ve come from far and wide to find each other and the moment has now finally arrived. I’ve found my seven Rulers. The gift I’ve bestowed upon you comes with great power and responsibility. These rings were forged by myself to preserve mankind, both human and now, magical too. Each of you will rule over your own continent and be responsible for building a thriving community.
All of your subjects are to receive a ring with your element. You will teach them how to use their powers. Next to that, you will raise an heir, your eldest child, be it a boy or a girl. This is very important, it should be either sex. In the coming year, I will train and educate all of you in the seven magical elements and share my ideas for the ideal magical future. Together, we can make sure our species will become the most prosperous of all. I expect you to keep each other in check, for one weak link could break our strong cycle and the peace we share. If one ruler abuses its power, then the fate of all the continents are in danger.”
“What about the humans?” Sigurd asked.
“What about them?” Cartius responded.
“Don’t they need to obey us and do our bidding?”
“No, far from it. We need to protect them. We must never show our magical abilities to them. They won’t understand and I don’t expect them to. That’s why we live in our own world. The world created by the power of the gemstones, by your rings.”
“You mean we must hide and humble ourselves for the sake of humans,” Sigurd said in surprise.
“No, for the sake of both our communities and our abilities to flourish in them without conflict or trouble. To be able to withstand future challenges.
Now, let’s build the settlement on the continent of South America. When we’re finished, we will teleport to my island, where your education awaits.”
Everyone looked content and was excited for the adventure and task that lay ahead. Except for Sigurd, for he had hoped to remain the sole pupil of the smith. Now he had to share his mentorship with six others.
Together, they re-created Mariana’s town. The biggest one so far. Djalu and Ishiguro actually had become apt at conjuring up wood, stones and other building materials. Much to the detriment of Sigurd, who had studied for weeks on end to finally conjure a branch of a tree.
To Cartius it was unclear what had started the stir, but Sigurd and the samurai unexpectedly engaged in a fight. Even though Sigurd was a more experienced magician, Ishiguru held his own before Cartius was able to interfere. The samurai was so quick on his feet and fast with his sword that he managed to cut off Sigurd’s left index finger, bearing his ring. Abruptly, Sigurd was powerless.
The whole assembly had never seen Cartius so angry. He tried to reason with both men for hours. Sigurd put his ring on his middle finger and seared his wound. The smell of burning flesh was nauseating.
Six men and two women prepared themselves for another teleport, this time to Cartius’s home. Green lights encircled them, but the journey was uncomfortable this time. There was a disturbance. The group was pulled. There was the smell of fire. And as Cartius heard metal clinking he knew it was too late.
The assembly re-appeared in white lights overlooking the mountains. The samurai appeared without his head, his body smoking, burning marks on his clothes. Everyone gathered around him, desperate. Then, they saw a wave of blond hair being sucked into a white portal. Sigurd had escaped. One Ring Bearer dead, one deserted. The first ever Ring Bearers hadn’t even learned their magic yet and already their world was out of balance.
- END OF PART 1 -
Part 2 will be published next month.
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