This is Part 2 of The First Ring Bearers, please read part 1 first.
For a list of characters, scroll to the bottom of this page.
Fun fact: this story serves as the origin story to a novel I’m working on. Stay tuned 😉
Cartius decided to first teach his pupils the power of the rings. He could not risk first bringing the ring of Fire to Ishiguru’s son or finding a new Ring Bearer to replace Sigurd in the coldest of continents, Antarctica. Besides, Sigurd was still wearing the ring of Ice.
So, Cartius brought the remaining five Ring Bearers to his city. They found shelter in the parallel universe. Together, they built five more houses. They also formed an atrium. The columns were made of marble that was conjured from the mountains. The roof was made of a new type of material, invented by Mektoub. They used sand and heated it with the element of Fire. In the process, a see-through substance was created that sheltered them from the rain when they were studying in the atrium. On the other hand, it also provided them with much-needed sunlight during the day.
Cartius taught his students everything he knew, just like he did with Sigurd. This time, he felt uneasy sharing the secrets of his magical world. After all, his first ever student had betrayed him. However, he had to because he needed them. He would come up with another way to protect his still to be formed magical society.
For months, Cartius taught the Ring Bearers his ideas for the magical community. Lessons alternated between learning actual magic, healing, politics, and interaction with humans. Naturally, the Ring Bearers had been most interested in learning the power of the elements.
Cartius had always intended for each Ring Bearer to become most proficient in his or her own elementary power. He was not surprised that Mary was able to keep conjuring up water from within herself, without the need of external resources. The others needed to be close to lakes, the sea or even a small ditch. Conversely, Mary was not able to keep conjuring thunder or sparks for that matter. This was something Wolfman was better able to do. This proved Cartius’s theory right.
In a particular lecture about how to build a magical council, Mariana interrupted him. “Excuse me, Cartius, but why do you speak of a council when you have none here?”
Cartius was taken aback by the question, but he knew she was right. How could the six of them continue to live and learn here, while there was no magical community surrounding then, while he had no court himself?
“You’re right, Mariana. We should revisit the human side of this island. We will need to form a council, and we are in need of some other magical people too to start building our community. The only problem is, it has never been my intention to form one. It should have been Sigurd’s task. Not mine, or ours for that matter. These decisions should be made by the Ring Bearer of Ice. And we have one who not only killed one of our fellow Rulers, but he has escaped too.”
“All the more reason to act fast and start building communities for the protection of your ideals,” Mariana retorted.
At that Cartius accepted her request. They were to seek people to become part of their society. It took them two days for the first few dozen to arrive. Cartius worked fast and provided all of the humans with copies of the ring of Ice. However, the white stone on his own ring did not light up as he searched for a new Ring Bearer. Perhaps that ruling power could only lie with one individual and there was someone still holding on to that power. He shivered at the thought.
Sigurd was careful to pick a piece of land unconnected to him, to his past. He expected Cartius to search on the continental island, in his former hometown or in the capital on the continent. Sigurd picked a remote fishing town on the continent itself. He disregarded his former mentor’s rules and magically built himself a home in the human world.
After the fourteen townsmen and women recovered from the shock of his magic, Sigurd forced them to kneel before him. Those who did were rewarded with a replica ring of Ice. With that, he had gained himself his first following. The two men who did not obey were turned into ice and shattered by a blast from Sigurd’s hands.
Sigurd taught his twelve followers everything he had learned from Cartius, except his teachings were infused with evil twists. The political ideals held by Cartius were neglected and replaced with a disdain for humans. However, Sigurd needed to convert humans first in order for them to become magical.
After a month, five men were sent into the continent to recruit more magical candidates. Sigurd instructed them to show their powers of Ice in town squares and to oblige all citizens to pledge allegiance to the Ring Bearer of Ice. Those who refused would be executed.
Slowly, Sigurd started to expand his town and his following. He taught them. Good students were rewarded places in his council. He gave unskilled magicians tasks in his household and service. None of the women were allowed to have any function of significance. He taught them only the basics of their magic, instructing them to care for their men and offspring.
Now the only thing on Sigurd’s mind was to prevent Cartius from executing his grand design for a magical society. He would have to kill all of the Ring Bearers. Then, he would recruit his own.
Months passed and Cartius’s students had proven to be diligent, both the Ring Bearers and the new inhabitants of his city. All but Mektoub. Mektoub had been more than able at using his own power of Air. It as if it took him no effort at all. He truly was a natural. However, he had the most difficulty learning the other elements. It seemed as though he held himself back.
One afternoon, Cartius decided to go on a stroll with Mektoub. The Egyptian man looked handsome in his white robes and turban. His beard black and tidy. His dark green eyes piercing Cartius’s. Every time Cartius looked into them, he felt calmer.
“Mektoub, I am curious to know what’s holding you back in learning the abilities of the other rings.”
“It feels purest using Air. It feels like it’s an extension of myself. Like I’m complete. The other elements, somehow feel unnatural. It’s like my body blocks them.”
Cartius was silent for a while, deep in thought. Then he replied. “What does your mind say?”
It was an odd question, but an important one.
“That those other powers are tainted. Not pure.”
“That’s what I was afraid of,” Cartius said. “But you must understand two things, Mektoub. The first is that your powers only work when the body and mind are aligned. You can’t perform good magic when there is no balance. The same holds for the balance of the other powers, which leads me to my second point. As a Ring Bearer, you are part of something larger than yourself. You need to accept that. If you don’t, I’m afraid we must find you a replacement.”
The others had joined the two men, who had not even noticed them approaching.
“What’s going on?” Djalu asked.
“I’m teaching,” Cartius said. “Actually, it’s good you’re all here. This concerns all of you.
Our magic comes from within ourselves. The rings act as vessels to the power. Our body and mind channel that power and turn it into acts of magic. However, it only works to a certain extent. Our bodily resources are finite. We need external resources which we can use to our advantage, to complete us into full beings. Giving and taking. Everything is connected.
You see, your magical abilities stem from unity. Unity of the body and mind. Unity of the elements. And most importantly, the unity of people. When the seven Ring Bearers are complete, you act as one body for the prosperity of the world.
It is our job to value and uphold a compassionate world. We need to create a union with a foundational story that’s based on trust. When we teach our future communities our ways, we need a united story for them to believe in.
Only when the world believes in the same story and acts according to its rules and regulations, will we achieve compliance and unity. This not just holds for the future magical society.
We need humans as much as they need us. Their way of life and their inventiveness complements our way. The only difference is that we serve a higher purpose. With our abilities, we’re able to safeguard the world. We can interfere when someone abuses power or harms the community or stay idle when there’s peace.”
Cartius’s pupils quieted, all deep in thought. Then, Mektoub rose in the air. He stretched out his hands towards the woods. A thick branch hovered above the group. With his hands, Mektoub conjured small flames, burning pieces of the wood. The branch twisted and turned. It seemed to be carved in the air. Slowly, Mektoub descended, holding the piece of wood in his right hand. He held out his other hand and a stone appeared, glowing. The rough, grey stone turned translucent and perfectly round. Mektoub put it on top of the stick. He walked towards Cartius and offered it to him.
“Consider this the acceptance of my duty and my gift to you. May this cane be an extension of your powers,” Mektoub said.
Cartius bowed, deeply moved.
That night, Cartius sat alone by the fire and thought about Sigurd. He knew the boy was up to no good. He proved to have a common flaw in human character; false pride. Sigurd was fallible to life’s temptations. Power, glory, and recognition. He appeared to crave them so much that if he got his way, he would subject all humans to his reign. But it was not just Sigurd’s corrupted character that bothered him, he had seen how easy it was to strip a Ring Bearer of his power. In order for them to perform magic, they were dependent on the ring. Taking it off, or having it cut off, would strip them of their powers. When a Ring Bearers dies, the ring is inherited by their first-born.
Cartius needed to provide a safety net. One mind could be easily corrupted. Seven would appear to be less susceptible to one man’s ideals. Even so, they just might be and then seven could as well act like one.
He needed to come up with an extra failsafe to protect these seven leading magical figures from themselves. Something beyond mere politics. But what?
He looked towards the mountain. Wolfman took a seat next to Cartius. He offered his pipe.
“Sometimes we need to go back to our beginnings only to protect our future,” Wolfman said.
At that moment, Cartius knew what to do. He collected his cane and walked towards the mountains.
Sigurd had moved to the parallel city of his old mentor and observed it for a couple of days. He wore a disguise and hid in the woods, at the edge of the mountain. It seemed Cartius had not wasted time. The small town had grown. There were houses, a small market and a huge, magnificent atrium covered by a see-through roof. By his estimation, there were at least a hundred people inhabiting this parallel town. Sigurd couldn’t help but feel jealous. These people belonged to him, the Ring Bearer of Ice. This island was part of his continent.
He had observed Cartius and the remaining Ring Bearers. Apparently, they had not found a replacement for the dead samurai yet. Which was good for Sigurd, one less person to have to deal with. Over the last few days, he had seen Cartius teach. Sigurd had to admit the students were apt at their craft. Except for the Arab. Until the snake conjurer rose in the air and performed beautiful magic. Sigurd felt a hint of envy.
He retreated between the trees and fell asleep underneath a big fir tree, oblivious to the footsteps of his former mentor.
The next morning, Sigurd could tell something was off in the town. The Ring Bearers seemed to be searching for something. With every minute, they became more anxious. He moved closer. When he was close to the atrium, he could hear Djalu and Mary call for Cartius both inside and outside the atrium. Cartius was gone. Now was the time to make his move.
Sigurd took his cloak off and walked towards the market. People pointed at him, struck by the sudden appearance of the stranger. Djalu was the first to spot him and sped towards him, faster than humanly possible, aided by his aerial powers. The man with the long brown hair summoned rocks and waved them towards Sigurd. Sigurd pushed air with his hands towards him. Djalu was catapulted in the air and fell on a market stall. The rocks fell mid-air.
Mary approached on his right, quick on her feet, blasting a cocoon of water towards him and trying to encapsulate him. He pushed with his right hand, but she was strong. It became especially difficult when Wolfman and Mektoub attacked him on his left. Wolfman electrified the water cocoon, making it even more ominous in its attempt to consume Sigurd. Mektoub tried to help Mary push it towards Sigurd. Now, he really had to use all his strength. He could feel his energy being drained.
With a burst, Sigurd rose in the air. The electrically infused water cocoon almost hit Wolfman. Sigurd pushed and it hit Mektoub. He heard him scream. Quickly he shot balls of fire towards Wolfman. He ran and hid behind a tree. A market vendor was hit by the fire and immediately taken over by the flames.
As Sigurd turned, he found Mary at his right again. This time she was quick and shot balls of fire at him. He was impressed with the fact that she was this strong already. She hit him in his waist. The fire burned his skin. He descended and treated his wound with ice. Just as Mary shot water from her hands, he froze her stream resulting in her hands and part of her arms being frozen too. She whimpered and spat at him.
“I’m going to enjoy killing you,” Sigurd smiled.
Small stones hit his head with enormous strength. He ducked and turned. Mariana. She looked frightful. Her brown hair waved in the air. She glowed as if she was charging herself. Which she did. An enormous burst of electricity nearly hit him fully in the chest. He ducked. Suddenly, the earth shook. People around him fell and screamed. Mariana cannot be this powerful. Something is up. Cartius, Sigurd thought.
The mountain split. The volcano next to it erupted, causing a cloud of smoke rising up. Red lava poured from its top. White portals appeared everywhere around him as people fled the magical realm. He must kill the Ring Bearers now that he had the chance.
Djalu, Mariana and Wolfman stood before him, ready to attack. Then Sigurd had to steady himself as a strong gust of wind surrounded him. When he turned around, he saw a tornado moving towards him. Hovering above it was Cartius. Even though Sigurd could not see his face, he could feel his mentor’s anger. In a matter of seconds, he touched his ring and a white portal appeared. He jumped, just in time.
The conversation with Wolfman made Cartius realize there was a way to control the Ring Bearers. He must make a ninth ring to fix a major flaw in his magical system. He needed to create one ring which would be able to control all.
He stood at the bottom of the mountain where he had found the cave all those years ago. He found the former entrance which he had barricaded with a giant stone. It was almost unrecognizable. Cartius was impressed by nature. It had done its job to further conceal the blocked cave. Cartius’s conjured stone was now almost the exact same color as the rest of the mountain. He raised his hands in front of his chest, his hands crooked and quivering. It took immense strength to move the enormous boulder.
The rock slowly moved and made way for the entrance of the cave. Just as Cartius expected, familiar colors greeted him once more. As he hoped, the gemstones were still there.
He made his way into the tunnel. As he reached the room with the seven gemstones, he felt melancholic. Almost ten years had passed since he first found the stones and forged the rings. Times were simpler then, but now he had created something that would ensure the prosperity of mankind. His contribution to the world. His legacy.
This time, however, no pickaxe appeared. That did not matter, by now Cartius was powerful enough to cut a piece of each stone without aid. He waved and held out his hand. Seven already carved and colorful stones softly landed in his hand. They glistened. Cartius smiled. Next, he conjured a small piece of gold. It felt strange to him, he had never conjured the precious metal out of thin air before. His energy level dropped severely. He panted as he forged a ring in the air. The gemstones swiftly melted into the ring.
This was his answer, to forge a ninth ring. He would hide it someplace safe where he could retrieve it if circumstances required it to be found. If one or multiple Ring Bearers needed to be stopped. If the magical community would fail to perform its duty. When it would corrupt the minds of sorcerers. This ring would be able to strip all the other rings of their power if the situation demanded. He could not believe it could be this simple.
Cartius was abruptly awakened from his thoughts by the ring heating up in his hands. The gemstones lost their color and turned grey. What was more striking, the gemstones in the cave started to melt and turn grey too. The earth started to shake, growing more intense with every second. Cartius panicked and ran for the exit. Stalactites fell, Cartius boosted his pace, carefully avoiding the falling stones. When he reached the exit of the cave, he rose into the air. He put the ninth ring on his finger. Immediately, he felt different. His energy level rose. He felt light and above all, he felt powerful. The mountain split behind him, the volcano erupted, the earth shook. When Cartius looked towards the city, he could see something was off. Instantly, he felt Sigurd’s poisonous presence. With his hands, he formed a tornado. He steered the tornado ahead, hovering above it. The other Ring Bearers were fighting the treacherous Sigurd. The pale man turned to face Cartius. Cartius could feel his former pupil’s fear. Then, Sigurd touched his ring and Cartius knew he was too late. Coward.
The tornado disappeared, but it was not the only thing to disappear. People left and right jumped into hoops or portals. Cartius descended and landed in front of Wolfman, Mary, Mariana, and Djalu.
“Where’s Mektoub?” Cartius asked.
Djalu pointed to his left. There lay the storyteller, unconscious on the floor. Cartius wished the Arab had not been so adamant on only studying his own power. He would have been stronger and better able to fight Sigurd.
“Get him to safety, Djalu,” Cartius said as he looked at the others. “I need you all to conjure a portal and come with me into the human world. We must help the humans get to safety.”
“What’s happening, Cartius?” Mariana asked sharply as she defrosted Mary’s hands.
“I either made a terrible mistake or a less terrible mistake that just has a very high price. We need to act fast. I think the island will not last very long. I can feel it. Djalu and Mariana, summon wood and make boats. Let people set sail for the mainland.”
They nodded and disappeared, Djalu holding Mektoub.
“Mary and Wolfman, fetch as many people as you can find and bring them to safety by using the portals. Accompany as many as you think could fit and return to fetch more people. I will assemble them. Let’s go.”
Cartius conjured a portal and disappeared.
It was close, too close. Sigurd touched the wound on his side. The burning flesh was red and swollen. The ice had done its job, but it hurt nonetheless.
Sigurd was outraged. Again, he failed. He was frightened too. Something about Cartius’s power was off. He seemed stronger.
When he arrived in his town, a member of his council informed him that there had only been ten new recruits. Most people refused to join his society. They refused to kneel before Sigurd.
Sigurd lost it and turned the messenger into ice, then blasted him into thousands of pieces. People fled into their houses, scared of their leader.
Another figure approached him with apprehension. “My lord, people are appearing near the shore. Hundreds have arrived already.”
Sigurd waved his hand and the man was catapulted into the air, falling through the roof of one of the houses. Suddenly, Sigurd regretted being too arrogant as to set up his town in the human world instead of the parallel world.
He had a good idea who the newcomers were. Something was happening on the island before he left it. Like it was dying. The arrivals would have to be its inhabitants. Which meant they would be brought onto the mainland by Cartius and his remaining Ring Bearers. Another chance.
Quickly, he fetched a few men. “Instruct everyone to meet me in front of the council house. Every man and woman. Children too. I need them to fight.”
Sigurd knew he would lead his people to their death. They had not been trained properly. Only some would survive. If they were be lucky. But it was the price he was willing to pay. He could always find new subjects. He needed these people to distract and occupy the Ring Bearers. That way he had a chance at killing his former mentor and the remaining Ring Bearers.
About eighty men, women, and children gathered in front of the house of the council. Sigurd spoke, “The men and women arriving at our shores are here to take our land, our houses, and our food. We must stop them. Use your power of Ice, help each other. Most of the arrivals haven’t received their rings yet and are therefore powerless. Kill them. Me and my council will focus on their leaders. Follow me.”
Sigurd led them to the shore. The confrontation was almost comical at first. Two groups of people eyeing each other, unsure what to do. The new arrivals smiled faintly and approached Sigurd and his people. Then Sigurd rose in the air and shot sharp icicles towards the newcomers. At least ten of them fell to the ground. Most started to panic and ran back to the boats. The ones with powers shot icicles towards Sigurd. When Sigurd’s people attacked too, a fight broke out. The people who had lived in Cartius’s magical settlement stepped forward, striking. Humans fell or fled.
Mariana and Mary rose in the air, attacking Sigurd. Wolfman and Djalu froze as many of their attackers as possible, but they did not kill them. The barely conscious Mektoub gathered all his strength and redirected all of the icicles shot at him and the humans he was protecting. It was like he conjured up an invisible wall.
In the chaos, more people arrived on the shore. The last of them was Cartius. With one wave he knocked down half of Sigurd’s citizens. He ascended.
“Ring Bearers, help Mektoub protect the humans, extend his wall. Don’t loosen your grip. Stay there.” His voice sounded strange and ominous, it was as if someone else was talking.
The Ring Bearers joined Mektoub. Sigurd faced Cartius with defiance.
“So old man, you’ve come here to die.” Immediately, Sigurd shot a beam of energy in Cartius’s direction.
With a dismissive wave, Cartius deflected his attack. Sigurd was astonished.
“I’m afraid it isn’t my time yet. Far from it. I’m here to give you a choice. Give up your ring and power willingly and I’ll spare you. If you choose to keep it, I will take the ring from you by force.”
Sigurd laughed menacingly. “What makes you think I would give up my powers? Are you insane? Do you really think I won’t kill you?”
“Yes,” Cartius said amused. “You won’t kill me. You see everything can be taken from a man except for one thing. His freedom to make a choice and to determine his attitude in any given circumstance. You made yours, now I will make mine.”
Cartius held both his hands in front of his chest. The rings on either hand made contact. The first ring and the last. A wave of energy reached Sigurd, knocking him down to the ground. Cartius descended. Sigurd was unable to get up, he was bruised and broken. His left leg stood in an unnatural position and he had at least broken one of his ribs. Blood escaped from his side and back. He had hit a big rock as he fell. Cartius approached him as he touched his new ring. Sigurd tried to conjure fire, but nothing happened.
“What did you do? How did you–”
“Strip you of your powers? Well you made me. Because of your actions, I realized I needed to make an extra failsafe to protect humanity from itself. From the corruption of power.”
“Finish it,” Sigurd spat.
“No.” Cartius bent down and took Sigurd’s hand. He took his ring and put it in his pocket. “I’ll send you away instead. Live your life knowing what you’ve done. What you could’ve done. How you could have made this world better.”
Cartius summoned a portal hoop and let it hover above Sigurd. “Goodbye, son.” He dropped the hoop and Sigurd vanished, leaving only a pool of blood behind.
ONE YEAR LATER
Cartius smiled at the young samurai’s son. Only when he became of age would the boy be ready to receive his powers. In the meantime, his mother Aiko would wear the ring of Fire. They both accompanied Cartius back to the continent of Ice.
Aiko joined the other Ring Bearers in the town they had made for themselves in the parallel world. Cartius had chosen a new Ring Bearer of Ice. A young human who was saved from the fallen city. His name was Lugus. The island had drowned in the sea, along with the cave that had provided the world with the magical gemstones. Cartius was under the impression that the island sank because he made another ring. His greed for more power resulted in the demise of the cave and ultimately the entire island. The cave had its own failsafe for humans hungry for more power. Regardless of Cartius’s intent with the ninth ring.
The power of the ninth ring felt different than the other rings, omnipresent and destructive. With merely a touch, he was able to strip other rings of their power. Cartius traveled the world in order to find a good hiding place for the ninth ring. He did make a note about where the ring was in the book he was finishing: The Book of Creation
His discovered his own ring had a peculiar trait too. Cartius had always assumed it, but every time he saw his reflection in the water, he seemed not to have aged at all. He still looked like the man he was ten years ago. He would be able to see how the magical and human worlds would unfold, intertwine, and hopefully, thrive. But at what price?
- END OF PART 2 -
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Cartius: the creator of the magical world and the smith who created the Rings of power from the gemstones he found in a cave.
Sigurd: Cartius’s first pupil and the second man ever to own a magical ring. Ring Bearer of Antartica and master of the element of Ice. Fell to evil in pursuit of more power and suppression of humans.
Djalu: Ring Bearer of Australia and master of the element of Metal.
Ishiguru: Ring Bearer of Asia and master of the element of Fire. This former samurai got killed in part 1 by Sigurd.
Mektoub: Ring Bearer of Africa and master of the element of Air.
Mary: Ring Bearer of Europe and master of the element of Water.
Wolfman: Ring Bearer of North America and master of the element of Electricity.
Mariana: Ring Bearer of South America and master of the element of Earth.