The Dark Lord’s Journal Approaches! (So This Is The Time To Start Running!)
Villains, knaves, cads, monsters, and all the other horrible Creatures of Darkness who are our target audience:
I mean, if you want to. You’re a villain; you’ve got free will and don’t have to take orders from anybody. Nevertheless, celebration might be in order, because the news is sensational:
“There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN”, our unreasonably nefarious and darkly satirical first novel, is out RIGHT NOW! You can buy Jeff Mach’s new book RIGHT HERE!
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Book Excerpt: “An Evening With The White Wizard”.
The White Wizard’s campaign tour—that is, his gathering of allies—is going well. You’d think they’d have noticed that two different “Chosen Ones” died and were replaced along the way. Or, really, if you look at the allies, you see why they wouldn’t; they’re pretty excited about polishing their swords and making sure their eventual portraits catch their good sides. They don’t pay much attention to the kid in the robes.
It’s a standard evening of overly-romanticized discomfort. The party of adventurers is encamped in the woods, despite the fact that there’s a perfectly good inn about three miles back. But no, it was necessary to press on into the forest against the backdrop of twilight. (I realize that the Wizard knows I have an ability, albeit limited, to observe him through a scrying glass, and sometimes, I’d swear that bastard is posing.)
There they are, having just cooked some animal which never did them any particular harm, and now the White Wizard is regaling the assemblage around a campfire, changing the flames into shapes to suit his stories, and telling tales of history and bravery and anything except knowledge which might be even vaguely useful.
This is an ancient world. It had old, forgotten Gods; places which sprang up, flourished, ruled, and sank beneath seas and volcanos; beings which visited from planets inconceivable. Once, it is said, Dragons ruled here; how then did Man ever come to power?
There’s so much to tell, if you know it and want to share.
That’s a big “if”, though.
Most of this world is not very literate. This is little surprise, when the primary source of reproducing a book is to sit a monk at a table and tell him, “Do you see this scroll? Your beard is blond now; copy it until you’re grey. And then, we’ll get you a new scroll.”
But the knowledge of Wizards is vast. We read languages our species was not meant to speak; we have heard words from mouthless things; we can tell a history by the motion of the moon, and a future from the flight of a bird.
Why, then, does the Wizard say so little of meaning?
Why does he so seldom teach anything of practical value?
Why does he drop nothing but little crumbs?
The companions know very little of me, but they know almost as little of him. Hints and rumors, mysterious suggestions, bits of myth and legend—nothing more. How old is he? How did he come to be what he is now? No-one knows.
(Actually, I do–but they’re not likely to ask me.)
Why so many secrets?
There’s a flash of the dramatic in most powerful conjurers; really, if our fellow humans were of no interest to us, wouldn’t we set up castles in the sky and have little to do with our previous bloodlines? Even those of us who don’t actually want to accomplish something on this plane (and I’m not one of that number) tend to be surprisingly available to humans, enough so that ordinary magicians have people knocking on their doors at all hours saying, “Behold, I have found this magical locket; what are its powers?” or “Come quickly, dread demons are emerging from mirrors”, or “Are you satisfied with your current flying broom? Don’t be! With our new, improved, deluxe design, you could be soaring through the air like an ancient Greek about to get his wings melted!”
It’s bothersome to most spellmakers to live among human things when most of us want to be left alone to research the supernatural; but we feel compelled to do so, for various reasons. The White Wizard has a sense of drama, and I—well, I have a pressing need to speak and show, as might have been noticed by now.
So that’s part of playing it spectacular and yet unrevealing. If no-one knows quite what you can do, or quite what you know, then setting off the right spell at the right moment will strike rather deeper than if your fellows saw you, say, consistently levitate as you travel.
(Or if they saw you spike their drinks—but that’s another tale. I see you, O Wizard.)
We try to know others through what they tell us, what we see and hear, and what we know of their history.
The White Wizard has let us know exactly as much as he wants us to know.
That’s more than a little ominous. Why cloak everything in obfuscation? Why must so much knowledge reside solely in the wizard’s head? Consider how dangerous it would be if some passing troll cracked open said skull.
(But that never happens. In fact, when danger’s near, the Wizard seldom is anywhere in the vicinity. Peculiar, right?)
He’s a grand teller of tales, our wizard. Beguiling and compelling, he weaves chronicles of ancient times as if he had been there. As if he were some ageless figure, filled to the brim with the wisdom of centuries, but much too modest to talk about it. It’s as if everything were predestined, and he could impart pieces of needful understanding in the right moment, to be opened like presents at precisely the right time. It’s a very pretty story. Except the Universe is not predestined, nor built around the timing or convenience of anyone. And it ain’t quite so pretty a story when you start counting all the bodies.
Stories are the trees of a forest. Some assist each other, passing nutrition from one plant to the next. Some are symbiotic, living off of each other in mutual assistance and hunger. Some actively compete—race towards the sun, winner gets to spread out and grow, loser shrivels in a haze of missing photosynthesis. The White Wizard’s story seeks to be the Great Tree, the vast and extraordinary oak which has been the center of the forest for millennia.
If he wraps himself around the Great Tree long enough, maybe he’ll be seen that way. Because who wants to be known as the kudzu which clings to other foliage, fast growing, opportunistic, prepared to smother that plant and move on to the next one before most of the rest of the forest has had a chance to change the color of its leaves?
Don’t worry. It’s all part of his great plan. Everything will be fine. What’s a little bit of missing information, or withheld knowledge, or flat-out lying, in the grand scheme of things? After all, this is the White Wizard. You need to do what he says, and you need to listen hard if he deigns to tell you anything.
There’s Good. There’s Evil. There’s no excuse for condoning Evil, and no excuse for talking to it, hearing it, or letting it live.
The White Wizard embodies all that is good and right in the world, according to the only authority he permits a voice—namely, himself.
If you can’t trust the White Wizard, who can you trust?
And now, and now, there comes the White
Gorgeous in its purity
Frustrating in its barking blight
Maddening in its surety.