The Fog

Thank you Wuffie, for turning a simple conversation into a story idea.

Michael passed his hand across his face and sat staring at nothing for a few moments. He was tired, really tired, but he had an idea he just had to write down. If he didn't, the story would get away from him. So he sat down on the couch, waiting for his laptop to start up while he stared out of the window. His flat was on the sixth floor of a large building just outside the city, which meant that he had a magnificent view.

When it was finally ready, Michael started up his word processor and stared at the screen for a few moments before he forced his fingers to start typing a sentence, any sentence. It didn't matter what it was, as long as he got started. He could always rewrite the beginning later.

The mage stood on top of his tower, looking out over the lands surrounding it. From up here he could see everything that was under his control: fields with small villages, lone farms scattered throughout the countryside and a single large city to the east. There was a forest to the north of the city, too, but he never really thought about it. He was sure the people living on his lands used it to hunt for food and to gather wood but he simply didn't care. There was nothing in there that would interest him.

He looked up, staring at the city for a few moments. There were a lot of things out there that interested him, but not at this moment. Right now it was just a collection of lights in the darkness, some of them moving about, most of them stationary. Every now and then one of them would wink out, only to be replaced by a different one a few moments later. He vaguely wondered whether the amount of lights would always be the same and whether he'd be able to write a story about that, but the thought quickly vanished to the back of his mind as his attention returned to the story at hand.

Something was worrying him: directly to the east, on the other side of the city, another mage's tower had been constructed. It was a challenge and the mage knew that he would either have to kill the other mage or be killed by him. There was no other way. There was no good reason to postpone it, either. Every minute the tower stood there, the other mage's hold over the domain would become stronger. He started concentrating on a spell that would make it very clear the other mage wasn't welcome in his domain when he noticed something else: the horizon was beginning to blur.

He interrupted his spell for a moment and studied the phenomenon a little more closely. It seemed to be some kind of fog which was slowly getting closer. A normal observer would have left it at that, but the mage had a trained eye and noticed that it wasn't natural. With a derisive chuckle, he realised that the other mage was trying to block his view, perhaps to try and disorient him. Or maybe he was just trying to create a dramatic effect.

While he wrote it, he could see the scene unfolding before his mind's eye. The mage on top of his tower, not a gust of wind to disturb his robes, looking around a countryside which was lit by a nearly full moon. The moon would have to be quite bright, or he wouldn't be able to see anything at night. It suddenly occurred to Michael that he hadn't mentioned at what time the story took place and he scrolled back to make sure. He decided to leave it like this for now, there would be time for adding in such details later.

Suddenly the realisation dawned on him that the fog wasn't just coming in from the east. No matter in which direction he looked, fog was blurring the horizon, slowly creeping closer. This was a little more worrying: an opponent who could spend that much energy on a mere display of power might be dangerous. The mage wasn't about to let himself be influenced by that, however, as it might be exactly what the other was after.

Michael could feel his eyes beginning to sting and, in spite of the fact that he was actively doing something, his eyelids were becoming heavy so he looked up again. He blinked. Part of the city had just vanished and it took him a few moments to figure out that it was simply getting foggy. The thought that he was writing about exactly the same thing made him chuckle and, feeling refreshed, he turned his attention back to his laptop.

He concentrated on a spell and tried to see if he could hold back the fog. If he could wear down the newcomer, he would be a lot easier to get rid of. The mist was closing in faster than he had expected: it had already reached the city and was hiding the first buildings from view. It was as if someone had just blotted out that part of the city.

He realised that he couldn't afford to waste any more time and started pushing back, creating a dome of magical energy around himself which he pushed outwards in all directions. When it reached the mist, his dome just stopped. It felt as if his spell had run into a brick wall. The two spells struggled silently for a while and then it happened: ever so slowly, he could feel his dome being forced back. The fog appeared to be the stronger spell. He put his entire mental strength behind his dome but it was no use: it kept shrinking as if he wasn't even trying. The fog wasn't slowing down.

Michael looked up again to see what the fog in his own world was doing and was slightly surprised. Either it was moving quite fast, or writing those two paragraphs had taken more time than he'd thought. The fog had already reached the railway bridge not far from the ring road surrounding the city, covering everything behind it in a thick, grey blanket. The only thing he could still see were a few warning lights on the very tall buildings, but they were not nearly as bright as usual.

At that moment, he realised that the newcomer must be a lot more powerful than he had anticipated and he cursed the years he had spent in seclusion in his tower. Apparently, while he had been safely hidden away performing his research, mages out in the world had managed to become considerably more powerful. He had always known it would only be a matter of time until someone stronger came along but he hadn't expected it to happen so soon, or for the difference in strength to be this big.

The fog would need to be more prominent in this story, Michael decided. He looked out of the window again for inspiration and saw that the last few lights that had still been visible only moments ago were now completely gone as well. As for the fog itself, it seemed to be oozing over the railway bridge, crawling through the streets in front of it.

Wait... ooze? He wasn't thinking straight, fog didn't ooze. It...

...crept closer, with most of the city except for a few torches now hidden from view. The mage was starting to sweat in spite of the cool night breeze. There was no way he would be able to hold this back. This was it: he was going to die. Without his magic to support it, his tower would fall to ruins within a few weeks. He himself would be forgotten, all of his work for naught as nobody would bother to come looking for it and pick it up where he had left off. Now that he thought about it, it became clear that he had wasted his life by locking himself away in his tower.

As soon as he realised what was causing it, he shook his head and forcibly pushed back the growing despair. He couldn't allow a simple mind control spell to influence him like that. In fact, knowing that his opponent had to resort to such basic techniques gave him a little hope: he might not be that strong after all. The mage began to search for his opponent's mind. With the city in between them it wasn't easy: it wouldn't look any different from the minds of the citizens. The one thing he could go by was that the mage would not be in the city itself but a little beyond it. It would have to be a solitary and rather active mind.

Just when he found it, he realised that he could hear the fog. He instantly recognised the sound it made and knew that he would be the only one to hear it. This was a sound specifically made to distract mages from their spell-casting. The commoners in the city wouldn't even hear it, but for the mage it meant that he had cast his last spell.

Michael woke up with a start, his head full of confusing images and thoughts. He shouldn't be alive, the other mage had been stronger. Why hadn't he been killed yet? Was it because the other mage was just a character in one of his stories? If so, why was the fog still there? Where normally there was a wonderful view, all he could see now was solid grey. Was he really a writer, or was that just an idea that his opponent had placed in his mind? Had he been put in a cocoon of endless grey where he would have to spend the rest of his days wondering who he really was?

When he looked around his flat he could see various things that brought back memories. On the wall were the paintings he'd made last summer when he was on vacation in France, and lying next to him on the couch was the book he'd started reading a few days ago. The memories all seemed real, but a talented mage could probably add all of those to an illusion as well.

He closed his laptop and sat up straight, yawning and rubbing his eyes. Illusion or not, it would have to wait until morning.

Category: Stories
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