This Saturday, I’m answering the question, “What happens if a Cadaerian mage attempts to get powers beyond his/her alignment?”
Actually, I should rephrase that. I’m going to answer the question, “What do Cadaerians think happens if they attempt to get powers beyond their alignment?” (The answer to the actual question depends on what type of powers the mage attempts to get, and how he or she attempts to do it – usually, though, it results in large-scale destruction or in nothing happening at all. Laeshana, of course, is different.)
Following is an ancient fable from the land of Cadaeren, as recorded in the book The Heartland Chronicles – a kind of Brothers Grimm collection of magical and moralistic tales taken down early in the Age of Balance by an author supposedly named “Goldenthought.” (Clearly, this is a pseudonym designed to bring an added quality to the book. It remains to be seen whether the author’s attempts succeeded.) Without further ado, then, I am pleased (or appalled, one or the other) to bring to you “The Tale of Kaltin the Fool.”
The Tale of Kaltin the Fool
In the days of the first kings, when no one knew of the Balance, the world was wondrous and wild. Magic of the earth sprouted from every seedling. Magic of the air laughed and swooped in every breeze. Every fire crackled with the pop of untapped power, and every pool and brook bubbled and burbled with the rush of unseen forces. Such was the world, and the magic therein.
In those days, even the people of our kingdom were wild. Many were tuned to magic, but they knew neither official spells nor how to tame the powers, as the great schools had not yet been established. There were no water mages, no fire mages, no air mages, no earth mages. Only strong men and women who tapped into the power of an element and gloried in its strength and beauty. They lived in this way for many years, neither knowing nor wanting to know more than the world itself told them about magic. Then Kaltin the Fool was born.
At first, he was merely known as Kaltin son of Kelshin, a boy aligned with fire. He was fair of face and strong of spirit, but his mind was ever filled with whys and wherefores that ought not to be asked. His parents did not know what to do with him, for they were not themselves magical, and could not restrain their son’s seeming need to question the magic of the world. As years passed, Kaltin grew in curiosity and power, but with no training and no regard for his parents’ warnings.
One day, Kaltin came to his parents with a new question. “Why can a person only use one magic?” he asked as he spun a wreath of flame over his head. “Why not two, or three, or even all four?” They could not answer his question except to tell him that it was unnatural and not done. “But why?” Kaltin asked again. “Could it be done if one tried hard enough?”
“No,” they answered, but Kaltin was not satisfied.
After many days of planning and plotting, Kaltin snuck from his house in the middle of the night, his questions raging and burning in his mind. He journeyed until he reached the top of a great waterfall that thundered and pounded the rocks below, sending spray up into the air a thousand feet. Kaltin reached out beyond his mind and felt the power of the water, but the fire in his nature kept it beyond his grasp. Twice he tried to gather the water into himself, and twice his internal fire hissed and burned it away. Do not try, his power seemed to say. Do not try. But Kaltin would not listen even to the warnings of the fire. “I will be one with the water,” he spoke aloud, “and people will remember me forever. I will be the greatest man who ever lived!”
Saying this, he stepped into the river and gathered his will. Further and further he reached into himself, gathering every spark, every glowing ember of flame, and pushed it all into a small corner of his heart. “Now come to me, water,” he said, and for the third time, he gathered his will and reached out to the falls before him.
Though the water rebelled with a mighty hiss of steam that rose around Kaltin, this time it did not all burn away. He reached out further, spreading his hands wide, and for the first time, a boy aligned with fire became one with the water. For a moment, Kaltin gloried in the strength and beauty of the water, in its thunder and flow and liquidity. But even as he shouted in triumph, the fire in his heart rebelled. At the hated presence of its opposite, the fire broke free from the bonds that Kaltin had placed upon it. It flared out in brilliant white heat, and the water now present in Kaltin responded in kind. For the first time, two elemental powers were forced into contact, and Kaltin the Fool was the conduit between them. Raging fire engaged thundering water, and each began to draw from its storehouse of wild power in the world to gain the upper hand. Around them, the earth began to shake and the wind began to howl as all the power of the fire and the water turned its focus and energy upon this one location.
Kaltin the Fool now knew the answer to his question, but it was too late to stop what he had unleashed inside himself. In utter helplessness, he cried out in anguish as he was burned and drowned from the inside out. “No more!” he screamed, and flung himself over the waterfall. The river boiled and hissed for several minutes, but finally was silent once again.
Several days later, the body of Kaltin the Fool was discovered many miles downstream. It was no longer fair of face, but waterlogged, and burnt black as coal.