Given the amount of people who wanted my blood, prison was not the worst place I could be. In fact, I had an opportunity there. This was a prison for the arcanic. For the wizards and shape-changers and necromancers of the world. And even for a scholar of magic such as I.
Survival, as ever, was my main concern. The second was escaping. I was in no rush–being enclosed with dozens of arcanic would be an excellent learning opportunity, and provide plenty of material for my book–but I didn’t want to die in here. I didn’t want to spend decades wondering how the magic of the world had evolved. Wondering about the lost cultures and secret arcane practices I’d never study.
You’ve probably heard of The Pillar before. The so-called “mage prison” where Perditian authorities hold arcanic men and women to keep the world safe from magic–whether the prisoners are dangerous or not. You probably also know that it is housed inside an intricately-hollowed iceberg just south of Northspear. The idea was that surrounding prisoners with water–frozen and otherwise–would dispell all magical attempts. But that is only the case for a small selection of magical arts.
What you don’t know, is that The Pillar is not a prison at all. It’s a weapon station. A training ground. A test lab.
We never knew at first. The prisoners, I mean. We were funneled into cages, dying of the cold, surrounded by walls of ice. Those who could conjure heat became the most valuable, the most popular. I befriended an old man who could self-immolate through sheer willpower. He began by cutting off his hair, piling it, and igniting it (he didn’t need to be attached to whatever part of him he immolated). When he ran out of hair, he chewed his nails off and did the same. When he chewed his nails to the stubs, well… he was missing many pieces before he chose to be warm for the rest of his life.
Survival was all that mattered at first. Some of the older inmates developed systems, routines, and began other ways to occupy themselves. Ice sculptures were popular. Living ice was more popular. Yet we were all concerned that the ice we chipped or cracked or melted would ultimately cause The Pillar to break apart, leaving us drowning in the freezing sea. The elders weren’t worried. It hadn’t happened yet, why would it ever happen? But I had a theory: The prison was being sustained by magic. Arcanics were being employed to imprison arcanics. Why?
From there, the patterns began emerging. The tricks the guards used to keep us in line. The items we managed to smuggle in, and the ones we couldn’t. How uncompromising the guards would be in the face of bribery when it came to planning escape, yet how accommodating they could be accepting favours in exchange for arcane ingredients. The way the most talented arcanics would be accused of a trumped-up offense and dragged away, never to be seen. All the disasters and social experiments–they were being engineered, puppeteered, by the faceless warden of the prison.
We were being groomed, not weeded out. The question was–what for?
Today’s three random prompt categories were, “Magic prison,” “Chewing your nails,” and, “Uncompromising.”
Another magic scholar story, like The City of Leeches. Not nearly enough time to give it the attention it deserves. One day, all my wacky worlds will be complete stories. But for now, it’s 15 minutes of fun a day, folks.