Nuclear Magery

This story is the third of a trio I wrote in 2017. I originally titled it “The Mage”. I think this is easily the best of the three.
**End Note**

What would he do with it?

That was the question, wasn’t it?

It had taken him ages to pore over the dusty tomes in the Great Library, but he had finally stumbled upon it.

The books spoke of a time before sorcery, before Will-sapping magic was available to everyone – at least to some extent.

They spoke of tiny particles that made up everything. Different substances had different kinds making them up, and they combined in different ways to create different things.

He was skeptical at first – the old ones had certainly believed in these particles, but did they still exist?

The old ones had warped reality, allowing us to change existence with our very thoughts. Had they warped the nature of reality as well?

But he didn’t give up.

He was a mage, after all. Chosen as much for his sharpness as for his affinity for the talent, he was no ordinary person.

He stuck to his task long after anyone sane would have given up. But finally, his search bore fruit.

It all began with a simple combination spell. A flash of Will burned hot in his veins, and he felt faint for a moment before the adrenaline kicked in. It was a simple enough procedure, designed to provide the caster extra energy after casting a spell.

And it wasn’t even necessary. There was no result. Nothing at all, as far as he could see.

But then why that flash of Will?

He went back to the dusty tomes. Days and days passed, and there were times when he felt his head would split.

But he didn’t give up.

He was a mage, after all.

Until finally, he understood. Something had manifested due to his combination spell, but that something was much too small to be seen or felt.

He tried again and again. For months he kept at it.

He poured all his Will into it.

He was one of the strongest, and he was unknowingly practising.

Until one day, he managed to do it. The flash of Will. The moment of faintness. The adrenaline kicking in.

He thought he had failed again until he looked down at his hands.

They were wet.

With concrete proof of success and countless possibilities before him, he ventured out into the world.

He gathered money and power, but always, he was learning more and more.

He built a circle – twelve people who he started teaching. Many did not survive and fell by the wayside, sapped and drained of Will. But he maintained the circle of twelve, and slowly started teaching them the basics.

Until one day, the emperor struck.

Shaken by the mage’s ever-increasing power, he ordered his chancellor to turn one of the circle. He knew he could not openly march upon the mage, for the mage’s power was formidable.

And one of the twelve was bought. Money, land, and a title was promised.

But the mage toiled on, struggling to unravel all the mysteries of the universe.

Until one day, the traitor smuggled poison into his mentor’s drink. But the drink did not reach its intended victim – instead, it killed another of the circle.

The mage was enraged, and he followed the poison’s trail to the traitor using far more mundane magical means.

He tore the traitor apart from the inside out, gifting him a prolonged and unmerciful death. But before the traitor died, he spilled all the secrets of the Emperor, hoping for mercy.

That day, no mercy was shown.

The remaining members of the circle watched as their mentor killed one of their own. They watched as he withdrew into a shell of his own making. They watched, and they feared.

But fear slowly turned to anger, and anger into self-righteous rage.

One day, they confronted the mage in their combined power, battering him back with waves of Will-shaped weapons. And while the mage could disintegrate them, he had no direct control over Will itself. For Will was of man, an ugly imposition on the nature of reality.

And when he realized he could not win, he wept. He wept as Will-cast attacks broke his body. He wept as Will-shaped weapons bled him dry.

He wept as he died.

And as he died, his mind started doing the unthinkable, the one thing he had sworn never to do. He had only a smidgen of Will remaining, but it was enough.

One particle was all it would take. One particle…

It was not an easy task, but he did it.

He was a mage, after all.

That night, the Empire fell. That night, the Great Library was torn asunder.

That night, the circle was crushed into actual dust, blowing past the remains of the once mighty Empire it could have ruled.

That night, a good man died.

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