Uncivil War, Chapter 4: Meet the Wizards

July 21, 1861

Cardhcantelë, Washington, D.C.

“I… I think magic isn’t just for, you know, blasting fireballs at enemies and moving armies. It’s not just a, um, a destructive force. It’s also a creative power, a way to share.”



-Vernon Hislop, shortly after Woodstock, August, 1969, when asked about proposed bans on magic

On the Elf-built stage, Vernon Hislop set down a case. With a slight Irish accent, he spoke. 

“A week ago, the world lost a great man. Oren Fawns, a cryomancer, and a man who stopped my family from being torn apart on several occasions. To mourn his loss, and celebrate his life, I wrote this song.” 

From the case, he levitated a timpan and played an A. Several other instruments, unseen, followed the note. Slowly, illusory instruments materialized – or would if they had material – and began to play a tune. The music sounded vaguely Irish, as did Vernon’s accent, but also contained elements of classical and almost religious pieces. The man on the stage opened his mouth, and began to sing. 

The words were in Gaelic, but the meaning, and emotions behind it, was clear. Especially since clouds of mist flew from the stage, floating past the edge and into the audience – hi by the way – and morphing into images that everybody in the audience was able to see.

Oren as a boy, learning to cast his first spell, instructed by an elderly-looking man.

Oren as a young man, extinguishing a wildfire while Estrella looked on.

Oren as an adult, standing between Vernon and another man as they glared daggers – literally in Vernon’s case, though the daggers were illusory – at each other.

Oren calling away a snowstorm, and the sun arising from behind the clouds.

All these visions, and many more, moved the listeners, moved them to tears, tears which the musician shared. Tears fell from their eyes, like rain, like mist, like a cascade. Even Abraham Lincoln, seated in the theater’s balcony, cried.

The visions continued for nearly an hour, and, finally, Vernon played the final note of his haunting lament. He paused for a moment, then bowed. A wave, nay, a tsunami of applause hit him. Not a dry eye was had in the whole of the room.

**********

Vernon sauntered out of the building. He wished, oh how he wished that Oren hadn’t died. Oren was… Oren was his brother. The only thing keeping his true family from shattering like his birth family had. And now that he was gone… He knew for a fact that Estrella had decided to drown her sorrows, and Amos… Amos probably would hate him even more. But wait, was that… was that Estrella? It can’t be, he thought, she wouldn’t be here. He was wrong, it seemed, as his younger sister walked towards him.

Deartháir mór!” she shouted, speaking Gaelic (words which he had taught her). “We need your help with something!”

“What do you need my help with, deirfiúr beag?”

“Despite my better judgement, I agreed to help the President in his itse war. He asked me to get you to help us.”

“And… where is he?”

Estrella motioned to the south. “He’s… uh, he’s over there somewhere.”

Vernon looked, and saw somebody, doing his best to not look like Abraham Lincoln, something which was difficult, for he was, in fact, Abraham Lincoln.

“And… and you want me to help you with this, as you so eloquently put it, ‘itse war?’”

“We do.”

Vernon thought for a moment. “I suppose it’s in my best interest to help you, isn’t it?”

Lincoln, no longer pretending not to eavesdrop, walked up to the siblings. “Yes. It’s in your best interest to help us.”

“Then… give me, mura fadhb é, 24 hours.”

“Fine.”

**********

July 21, 1861

National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Amos Weissmann sat. In the day’s fading light, he absentmindedly cast a spell. A squirrel, preparing to jump from branch to branch, found itself on the ground. Said squirrel squeaked, seemingly outraged. Ignoring this, Amos turned a page in his book.

The squirrel ran, frightened by somebody approaching slowly. Weissmann looked up and saw a man, shivering in the July heat. No, that wasn’t right. He was shivering, but not in the cold.

“A-a-ar-ar-are y-y-you A-a-am-am-amo-amos W-wei-weis-weissm-weissmann?” the man asked.

“Yes, that would be me. Why are you looking for me, eyngl?” Amos quietly cast a spell to read the man’s meanings, piercing the curtain of his stuttering.

The president sent me to find you and recruit you to help him in the war, the man, who Amos read was named William, thought.

What about my sister? And… a mental image of a tall man, with reddish-brown hair and a face with spots strewn across it entered Bill’s head.

Your sister agreed, but I don’t know about the other man.

I hope Vernon– he somehow spit this name, though their speech was telepathic,- disagrees, or else… or else, the President will be abetting a murderer.

Murder?

Vernon, that schmendrik… Vernon killed my other brother. He killed Oren.

**********

Watching this, a green lizard with gray spots made a noise that might be described as a sigh and slunk off.

**********

July 21, 1861

Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.

President Lincoln, Estrella, and Vernon walked into the former’s house. Awaiting them was Secretary Cameron.

“Mister President! You’re already back?” he asked.

“What do you think?” asked all three, Vernon doing a passable impersonation of the President’s voice, while Estrella simply chose a mocking tone.

“Well, obviously, you’re here, but I’d thought you’d sent that Bill to find Weissmann.”

“I did. Hislop, find them.”

Vernon began casting a spell. His eyes glowed smaragdine. Under his breath, he muttered, “Lonnú le draíocht, lonnú le draíocht, lonnú le draíocht…” He paused. “President Lincoln? They seem to be…” Vernon’s eyes widened.  “Holy-!”

Vernon’s curse was cut off by a punch to the face from Amos and a screaming Bill.

**********

July 21, 1861

National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Little time earlier, Amos and Bill were continuing their telepathic conversation. Where did President Lincoln go, then? thought Amos.

To… find… Vernon, replied Bill.

Everything went silent for a moment.

WHAT? thought Amos. The telepathic link was broken.

Beheyme!” he shouted. “Come on, Bill. Let’s go stop that momzer.” Amos cast his speciality, a teleportation spell, on himself and a mentally protesting Bill.

**********

July 21, 1861

Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C.

Amos screamed, “VERNON HISLOP, YOU BEHEYME! KHNYOK! MERDER! IKH VEL DIR HRG’ENEN!

President Lincoln stepped back. 

Estrella prepared a spell to stop Amos.  

Vernon sighed and looked at Amos, taking a moment to translate his Yiddish. 

And William Stewart went white, even more than usual, and shuddered enough to bore a hole in the wall. 

**********

July 21, 1861

Mizgom Cuzh, Nessus

The portal opened, and the man stepped through. He tore through Nessie’s stone roof, like a piece of particularly strong paper. Through the gap he dropped, maneuvering his landing so he rolled upon hitting the ground. 

His green-and-gray lizard familiar on his shoulder, he walked towards the palatial structure in the distance. In front of him, a plume of flame erupted. He stepped back, his face illuminated. 

Itse,” he whispered, “I hoped that I’d avoid flames this day. Though, I suppose, for avoiding flames, Hell is not the best place.” He continued his almost-dance, avoiding flames and baatezu. 

At the building’s gates, he knocked upon a wall, which opened like a sheet of ice with a drop of water placed upon it. Through his tunnel, he entered the Infernal Archive, the most important structure of Mizgom Cuzh, build of brimstone and metal. 

Around him, shelves of diabolical volumes rose like redwoods- no, like the mesas of his youth. He walked past them invisibly. Once, a shelf caught his eye. He peered into the Astral plane and saw layers upon layers upon layers of enchantments, of all schools of magic: arcane, divine, psionic, demonic and diabolic, and, below all the layers and layers of curses and enchantments, faint strands of something that he recognized as Chaos magic, forbidden on all the Outer Planes except two. This rattled him somewhat, but, sighing, he moved on.

Through a cave he walked, in a rising spiral. After what felt to be hours, and likely was, he reached the lair of the Archive’s leader, a pit fiend named Uth. Uth, normally referred to as Mizgomuth, turned from his throne and looked at the intruder. In a voice like flame, he uttered, “Who dares disturb me?”

The man, unfazed, withdrew from apparently nowhere a table.  He placed his hand on one side of the stone surface, and a chessboard with pieces rose. “Mizgomuth. It’s been a while. Shall we play again?”

Mizgomuth looked to the man, and, with a flicker of realization, one which continued, nodded. “As I recall, Tuuhikyahoya, you lost both times we played last.”

“Well, as they say, the third time’s the charm.”

“You will still lose.” 

“We will see, my friend, we will see.”

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