User:Vook/Dark Arts on Retrial

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By Vook

Dark Arts on Retrial[edit]

Fanfic in the world of Tamriel'

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow. Spoilers for the Mages Guild questline

Silence fell over the chamber as Archmage stood up. The Orrery, chosen for the gathering as the largest chamber in possession of the Guild has been shut down for the time of the gathering, most members of the Guild gathered on the lower level.

"Magisters and Apprentices! Battlemages and Conjurers. Friends and colleagues. Welcome to the Special Gathering of the Mages Guild. The Mannimarco crisis is past. The Oblivion crisis has ended. But both cost enough to be a sign of new problems. No emperor means political instability and many dangers. If the guild is to stand, it must adapt. This gathering is the first Great Gathering of the Guild, and simultaneously the inauguration of the new academic year of the Arcane University. But before the University can resume its activity, we must rebuild the council. This is associated with major changes in guildhouses leadership too. Some people will be displeased with the changes. Some - surprised. Most of candidates already know of my plans, as I talked with them before. But to make the long story short..."

A short moment of whispers.

"Traditionally the council consisted of masters of different schools of magic. This must change. Masters are too busy with research, and Council is a political, organizational body, not a scientific one. Masters will be heads of their departments and they will retain their vote in the council, but the core of the council will be members of the guild, who are simply good leaders."

Short moment of apprehensive applause.

"For my Second-in-command I call Kud-Ei from Bravil mages guild."

Kud-ei gasped, looking at the Archmage. Apparently, she wasn't among those who he had talked with before. "Why me?"

"You're pretty known for very loose approach to the guild rules and regulations. Simply put, you kept breaking them on regular basis, whenever they stood in the way of good, reasonable solution. While you ought to be expelled for persistent violating the rules, I think getting you to actually make better ones in their place will be an adequate punishment. You're supposed to change the rules of the Guild to adapt them better, so that nobody ever -had- to violate them to get the right thing done. Please, step up and stand here, by me. And I'm not accepting "no" for an answer."

Kud-ei blushing walked up the stairs and stood by the console, took her tail tip with her hands and began pinching it somewhat nervously. "What have I gotten myself into? Me stupid?" she mumbled.

"Applause to Second-in-command, Kud-Ei."

The applause was really enthusiastic.

"And now for the vacancy of the head of college of Illusion after Kud-Ei..." Archmage rested his hands on his hips, looking somewhat ironically at someone in the crowd.

The young Khajiit, J'skar walked up the stairs. "Archmage, please, I'm really not suited well..."

"Oh, I know Bravil is a dump and I'm really sorry that you have to go there. But that's where the college of Illusion is."

"But that was just a prank! A silly prank!"

"If by a prank you can make yourself invisible for a month, just think how much you can achieve by solid research. You will be the guildmaster of Bravil guild and Master of the school of Illusion. This talent can't be wasted. Magisters, please, welcome J'Skar, the master of department of Illusion."

There was a confused silence. No applause. Just some whispers.

"I told you this wouldn't work! I just ended my apprenticeship!" said J'skar to Archmage.

Someone on the lower floor coughed and asked. "Excuse me. Did you say a month of invisibility?"

"Yes. That is, we got bored after a month and dispelled it..."

"So it could have worked longer? How?"

"It wasn't a continuous spell. Just a few hours of invisibility with seconds of Chameleon attached to dispel of invis, letting me recast the spell when it was about to expire without ever dropping the cloak."

"But what about the magic light? The casting lights would reveal you!"

"That was a task for yet another chameleon which is to cover the very lights themselves."

"But you can't retroactively affect a spell you began casting already?"

"The first time I cast it, it's visible. The effect of first casting of spell embraces the lights of the second casting."

"But the lights don't exist yet by then! You can't cast a spell on something that doesn't exist!"

"Oh, the lights don't exist, but I know they will appear from the Magical Nul. So I just apply the effect to the Magical Nul."

The mage was silent for a moment. "Enchanting The Magical Nul itself? Incredible! Simple and pure genius! The implications... oh... I bid you welcome, Master J'Skar!" the mage bowed low, then began applauding, and soon the whole chamber joined in, in hurricane applause that lasted for a long while.

"I told you it would work." Archmage grinned to J'Skar who stood by Kud'Ei. "Take good care of my guildhouse!" said Kud-Ei.

When the hurricane of applause faded down, Archmage spoke again.

"Agatha, please take over the responsibility over Leyawiin guildhouse. You more than deserved it, and the guildhouse needs an energetic, well-organized leader. Simultaneously, Dagail is requested to join the council. Sorry, Dagail, you're not suited for a standalone leader. You will be a great help in the council's work, with your wisdom and skills though."

As Agatha and Dagail walked up the stairs, the applause was rather mild. It wasn't a surprise to anyone. It was more of a long-overdue change.

"Deetsan for the leader of Cheydinhal guild. And no, this is not in exchange for writing my recommendation for the university. She's simply best suited for her job."

The applause was mild. Another "At last" change.

"Anvil guild, as one of very few, will see no changes."

Some applause, people congratulating Carahil. She seemed a little disappointed, but she returned smiles and compliments.

"Skingrad... Now for the Skingrad guild... We need changes."

Adrienne Berene went pale.

"Adrienne Berene is definitely too busy with her research to continue her work as a head of the guild. Sorry, but we can't allow the guildmaster to tell guild members to purposely violate the rules and perform dangerous experiments in separation from the others because that's more convenient. Adrienne, sorry. You lose your position as head of the Skingrad Guildhouse."

Silence, some whispers. No special surprise here. Adrienne felt lucky for not being expelled anyway.

"And as much as Druja might deserve the position of guildmaster of Skingrad guildhouse, I want her here. Druja, I want you in the council. Your attitude will provide much needed distanced insight into our decisions."

"Me? For the council? Ah, good, who cares?!" Druja climbed the stairs and sat on the Orrery walkway barrier in the back, hanging her tail over the artificial starry sky.

"Now for the new guildmaster in Skingrad... while most of the remaining members would qualify, they must yield to a true master of magical art who lives in Skingrad."

Whispers were rising around.

"No, not Count Hassildor, don't worry. It's master of Alchemy, Sinderion. Master Sinderion was so kind as to agree to rebuild the Department of Alchemy from scratch in Skingrad. Department of Destruction will be moved to Bruma once the guildhouse is rebuilt. Master?"

Sinderion was walking up the stairs. "Now, now, it's been a long time since I've done any scientific work. If not our Archmage who provided me with some extremely rare ingredients and reawakened the love for research, I'd still rot in my cellar. I'll be happy to help."

Applause wasn't quite as warm as it should be. Sinderion was indeed a master, and not quite as bad for a high elf as most high elves tend to be, but still not as nice as some possible alternatives.

"If you're waiting for news about Chorrol, there are none. The guild remains without changes. I tried to re-recruit Erana for the guild, but she didn't agree. That's about it when it comes to guildhouses. Bruma and Kvatch will receive their new crew in a year, for now they will remain inactive. The council is almost complete, with one exception, but about that in a moment. Now just one procedural change. Since the fundings from the Elder Council are expected to decrease or vanish soon, because of the incoming political crisis, the guild will need to extend commercial activity. In order to do so, we join our strengths with Fighters Guild. Each Fighters Guild team will get a mage for help and healing, and the mage will be getting a cut from the profit for the job. And so will the Guild. Now, for the last, most difficult part."

Archmage paused for a moment and took a drink from a cup of water.

"There are few who saw more of the ugly side of necromancy than I did. Hannibal Traven gave his life in fight with Necromancy. But here, now, I'm telling you ban on necromancy was a mistake. We can't fight the dark arts by closing our eyes and refusing to acknowledge their existence. Necromancy can't be banned and can't be banished from the Guild. It must return. But it must return in a different form. Not as a dark, ugly, dangerous method of controlling corpses. Let me introduce the new Necromancy and the new master of the department of Necromancy. Falanu, please, come. Falanu Hlaalu. She was making her living as a honest alchemist in Skingrad, while researching... Oh, I think her husband will tell it best."

Falanu stood by the Archmage, while a short, red-haired man was climbing the stairs. The ellegant green brocade shirt wasn't quite matching the unimpressive posture, his face in state of permanent worry and confusion. Still, kindness was radiating from him. Shy and scared he stood in front of the Guild, cleared his throat.

"I'm no mage. I'm a tailor. Well, I was a tailor, back in Morrowind, before we, Falanu, and I were forced to move here, before the accident. I... I love my wife very much. And she loves me too. And..." tears appeared in his eyes "for the first time in many years we dare to admit it in public." He sobbed a little and rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, then resumed his speech. "Now of course you might wonder what does that have in common with Necromancy. I assure you it does. Back in Morrowind, we were traveling with a shipment of cloth to Ald Rhuhn, when a pack of Nix Hounds separated us. Falanu managed to escape. I tried to get to her. Long story short, I failed. I was killed by the Nix hounds. Yes, dear magisters, I'm dead, here and now, talking to you. Technically, I'm a zombie. Falanu... Falanu loves me so much, that she didn't accept my death. She maintained the corpse in good shape through restoration spells, preventing rot and decomposition. Then she recalled my soul from afterworld as a ghost, then killed the ghost and trapped my soul in a soulgem. Then she enchanted my dead body with my soul from the soulgem, gave me back my feelings, senses, the most of life that was possible. The body still needs to be... maintained... through restoration spells. It's not alive. It's a fresh-looking corpse. But it's my own body and I can control it just like I could when I was alive. I'm still a good tailor and good husband; I still love my dear Falanu. But people aren't quite as understanding, so she keeps me in secret. We lost most of what we had, when persecution of law chased us out of Morrowind. We found a safe harbour in Skingrad, but we still lived in secret. Archmage promised though, that I'll be able to walk in the daylight, talk with people, even if only within the walls of the University, and we tackled the opportunity. Please, accept us in your guild. Falanu can teach you ethical use of necromancy. I would be making mages robes. Please."

There was no applause, just many confused whispers.

"I invited Falanu to give the inauguration lecture, opening the new academic year of the Arcane University. The subject of the lecture is "Ethical Necromancy." Falanu, please." Archmage stepped aside. The Dunmer woman, pretty, tall, not matching her husband in looks, but with the same unusual kindness in her voice and looks, stood over the crowd.

"The Necromancy was always equaled to Dark Arts. This comparison isn't quite accurate. Dark Arts can cover any of the schools of Necromancy, Conjuration, and Destruction, extending partially onto Mysticism, Restoration with its Absorb spells, Illusion, where charm spells can be abused, and even Alteration by the Burden spells. What is a dark art is decided by how you use given school, and Necromancy for ages was used as a school of controlling corpses for military purposes. Most classical necromancers would laugh me off for giving free will to a zombie. That's the sad state of affairs, Necromancy worked long and hard to earn its status of the dark art.

Yet on the very opposite side, just next to best of what Restoration school has to offer, is the rare and elusive White Art, Divination. Difficult art of transferring godly powers to cure diseases and restore health, with the legendary ultimate, unachievable top of the divine school of magic, the spell of True Resurrection. The problem though, is that no single master of our era is known to be able to cast it, no artifacts that would keep it survived and the nearest thing to date that resembles the effects of the spell is..." Archmage handed a staff with a skull on the end to Falanu "Mannimarco's Staff of Worms."

A quiet groan, some sighs ran through the chamber. Falanu raised the staff a little.

"Of course this item is corrupted. No doubt about it. Yet there's nothing extremely unusual in it. It uses just a few common effects, and only one necromantic one. Reanimate corpse, the same effect as the one to raise a zombie. Then there's a high quality conjuration spell that summons the soul respective to given corpse, Soultrap and enchanting spell that binds the soul to the corpse, combination of Charm and Command spells that force the soul to do the bidding of the wielder of the staff, and in the end a dispel that ensures the revived body will die again when the combined spells expire, meaning it can't turn against its master. As you see, the combination is indeed a masterpiece of dark arts, but the compound spells are just basic, simple effects of various schools. Nothing evil in each of them taken separately."

"So as you can see, nothing stands on our way to combine a similar set of effects into a spell that closely resembles True Resurrection. Of course, we will never achieve the power and quality of the true divination spell, and likely, if we did, Gods would smite us. But we can get really close, just small technicalities separating us from the real thing. The basic idea is like in Mannimarco's spell, but we drop the whole control thing, giving free will to the summoned soul. We give a restore health spell that keeps the body as close to a living thing as possible. Then we push a little more, a fortify health spell, and the body goes over the border between death and life, the heart starts beating, blood flowing in the veins. Of course the moment the fortify spell expires, the body dies, but that's our thing to take care so that it never does. Essentially, we brought a dead person back to life. Just like in Divination spells. Still, binding the soul with the body occurs through raw, dirty, dark-necromancy spell of zombie control, the reanimated body while alive but without soul, is just like a zombie. But we don't hand over the control to the caster, but to the rightful owner, the soul we summoned just for this purpose."

"Of course this raises further moral questions. Like, what about natural death? The revived body ages naturally, but it could theoretically be maintained in state of artificial animation indefinitely, essentially giving the owner infinite life of a lich. Or what about abusing this power to bring back dead souls that should be long dead. Or what about reversing the fate of the world that was changed by deaths of the great. Could Uriel Septim still rule Tamriel if we brought him back to life? These great questions still need to be answered. Luckily we still have a few years to answer them before they become so nagging that we will have to face the resulting problems. For now we have an amazing spell technique that needs to be researched and controlled tightly, because it is indeed dangerous, though can bring incredible amounts of good if used properly."

"Department of Necromancy will open in the upper half of the Watchtower. The battlemages barracks will move to the mostly unused so far lower half. Just in case, as Archmage put it. Apprentices willing to join the course of Necromancy need to have two semesters of Restoration and one semester of Conjuration, Enchanting and Mysticism finished to join. Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, please ask."

There was a moment of silence.

"Hannibal Traven would be rolling in his grave if he heard this whole blasphemy!" Carahil from Anvil mages guild shouted. "You're about to waste his life's work! You're taunting the sacrifice of his life! He would never approve..."

"Carri, dear. But of course, I would approve!" a robed figure behind Carahil lowered the hood, revealing the old, friendly face of Hannibal. "I already did! And I definitely prefer walking these halls again to rolling in my grave."

"Hani? You... But you..."

"My soul was available at all times, in the black soulgem. I never even entered the afterworld. And the damage health spell I used on my body didn't leave any permanent damage. Of course, I didn't plan to come back, this was just a happy coincidence. But I'd be foolish to discard the opportunity. Of course, I retire from the position of Archmage, I'll sacrifice the borrowed time for research and scientific work. Please, Carri, don't be angry. Give them a chance."

Carahil sobbed loudly, and threw herself into embrace of Hannibal, unable to withhold tears.

By Vook '2006.