Soaring to Sol
rating: +14+x

Morgana awoke to a clanging and banging that reverberated around her tank and made the muck in her sleeping puddle vibrate. She climbed out slowly, and cautiously made her way to the workshop, where her master, Arditio, Wizard of the Fiery Orb, was throwing a minor temper tantrum. She paused at the threshold, knowing better than to step closer, lest she dry out, for she was a salamander. Arditio had heard that salamanders were the perfect familiars for flame and heat-based wizardry, and gone on a perilous journey for a whole mile to collect one from the nearby swampland. Unfortunately, the salamander he ended up catching had been one of the amphibious, mundane sort, rather than the volcanic, nonexistent sort. This meant that she was very nearly useless for channeling solar magic, but Arditio had come to enjoy her company, so she stayed on as his familiar, trying to help in any way she could.

Like now, for example…

She said, "Master, is there anything wrong?"

Sun Wizard turned, his rather patchy Robe of Majestic Flame swirling dramatically and knocking a homemade alembic off of a nearby shelf. "Morgana! Have you not heard‽ That damnable Moon Wizard Nyperius is planning to send himself to the moon!"

Morgana said, "Why would he do that?"

"To best me! His most formidable rival! Why else‽ He knows that his pale, pathetic moonbeams can never stand up to the Sun's unconquered glory, so he has devised a way to increase his power by magnitudes!"

Morgana thought carefully before speaking. "Master, are you quite certain that he is doing this only to best you?"

"Of course! What other explanation can there be‽ He's looking to steal my business! Once word gets about that the Moon Wizard has found a way to tap the moon's power directly, every knight in a hundred miles will be diverting their quests past his bloody door!"

"… Do they not… already do so, Master?"

The Sun Wizard bridled. "Only the trifling ones, familiar, only the trifling ones. Those knights would not dare to knock at the Great Arditio's door for solutions to their paltry problems, no! We are for the truly grave matters!"

It seemed to Morgana that a truly grave matter had not plagued any nearby kingdoms for months, aside from that one old woman who had passed by several days ago looking for directions to town.

Now the Sun Wizard began to calm down. "Do you know what I have divined, Morgana?"

"What, Master?"

"The Moon does not produce light at all! Not true light! It is only the pale reflection of the Sun's magnificence that makes that white hunk of stone seem to glow!"

Morgana thought about this. "But, Master, if that is true, why does Nyperius not perform sun magic?"

"Obviously, it is too much for him to grasp! He daren't try, lest he sear himself to the bone!"

Morgana paused again before speaking, aware that nothing good would come of her next question but unable to stop herself. "Then, why can you not perform moon magic, Master?"

Arditio bristled. "How do you know that I cannot‽ Have you ever seen me attempt to bother with such weak and watery power?"

Familiars could not lie to their masters, even to spare their feelings, even when they really didn't want to say anything. "Y-yes, Master. One night, during a full moon, I was awoken by the sound of weeping coming from outside, and I went out and saw you kneeling on the ground in a bluish robe and screaming at the Moon to grant… you… power…" she couldn't bring herself to continue in the face of the stare he was giving her.

Slowly, as if trying the words out in his head first, Arditio said, "…that never happened, familiar. You must have been dreaming."

"Yes, Master. I must have been dreaming."

"In any case," Arditio said, his confidence returning as the past thirty seconds were buried by his ego, "I have decided that the only thing to do to combat this villainy is to send myself to the Sun!"

Morgana started, "The Sun, Master‽ But, but-"

"But me no buts, Morgana," Arditio said, not unkindly. "If that wretched Moon Wizard thinks that he can defeat me this way, he will learn otherwise! Do you still have your spy in his cottage?"

Morgana wanted to say that this ridiculous rivalry only existed in Arditio's mind. She wanted to say that her master didn't have anywhere near enough power to send himself to the Sun, and it would be fatal to try. She wanted to say that he was being a thoughtless fool.

She wanted to say, But I won't be able to go with you.

She said, "Yes, Master."

"Contact him, and tell him to deliver a message unto his master. The Sun Wizard shall reach the Sun before he can even get an incantation prepared!"

"Yes, Master," Morgana said, and she crawled off to her scrying pool, a bit more slowly than usual.

It was the next day. Morgana tried to remain in the shade of the tall grass while Arditio busied himself with the final touches to his Sun Transportation Invocation, or STI for short.

She had remained silent all night as they prepared, knowing that nothing could change his mind. Nevertheless, she tried. "Master, are you quite sure about this? The Sun is extremely hot, isn't it? How could you-… your equipment survive the burning?"

Arditio chuckled. He was in a fine mood, already thinking of what he would do to Nyperius with all the power of the Sun at his disposal. "Ah, you show your ignorance, my dear familiar. For, you see, I have divined something quite important about the Sun's heat. It is not radiant, but rather takes the form of rings. Great celestial bands of hot and cold, at the edge of which our world turns. It is the reason that our winters and mountaintops are so cold, you see! The Earth wobbles slightly in her path and we cross into the cold band. And I have calculated that the surface of the Sun is a perfectly comfortable summery climate all year round!"

"Are you… quite sure, Master?"

He flapped a hand impatiently. "Certain, Morgana. Now, it is ready!" He pointed proudly to the circle around which he had painstakingly copied magical symbols backwards. "It's quite simple, once one has thought about it! I simply perform the invocation to draw the Sun's energy towards myself, but in reverse, and I shall be able to ride the golden rays back to their source!"

With that, he began the lleps, as he had referred to it. Morgana retreated to a safe distance and watched with a sinking heart as he jumped backwards and made distressed sucking noises that were the reversed invocation chants. Several times he had to stop and perform a second incantation on the plant ashes scattered around the circle to turn them back into fresh herbs, because the original spell required the burning of various plants.

Finally, Arditio halted at the edge of the circle and dropped his hands down to the earth. Nothing happened for several seconds. The, Morgana felt the wind rushing towards the circle, heat bleeding out of the air around her. It gathered around Sun Wizard, and with a mighty WHOOMPF, a magnificent bolt of pure heat and light shot through the sky towards the Sun. Morgana was so awed by the spectacle that she forgot to be disheartened for a moment. She was still staring upwards when she heard a cough.

Arditio was sitting in the middle of the blackened circle, covered in soot and frost and not much else. His power had protected him from the Sun's energy leaving the area, but had not extended to his clothes and hair.

It was several days later. Morgana sat at the foot of her puddle and waited for the transportation spell to take. Eventually the water took on a slight sheen and suddenly appeared much deeper than before. She hopped in and glided down to another circle of light, grasped the edges, and pulled herself up through a water bucket in a very different place. She gave herself a moment to adjust to gravity reversing, then slithered out and onto a flagstone floor.

She didn't have to wait long. "That was quite fast. Well done." The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, before a mass of shadow rose, gained eyes and whiskers, and slid out of a dark corner to take the shape of a black cat. Though he had a smattering of grey hairs mixed in with the black, there was air of agelessness about him, an aura of quiet, composed power in the way he held himself. To Morgana he was grace, beauty given form. Even his very name was dignity itself. Commodore. Commodore Buckles.

If Morgana could've blushed, she would have done. "Oh, that sort of spell is easier for me when it's rainy, that's all. How is your master's moon spell going?"

"He's nearly finished with the preparations. He plans to lift the cottage along with himself, so I've been doing a lot of digging lately."

"How did he react when you told him that Arditio was planning on sending himself to the Sun?"

Buckles shifted uncomfortably for a moment. "Er… he said, 'Who?' as far as I could make out."

"Oh…" said Morgana, slumping. "Was, was he possibly trembling a bit when he said it? My master wants a report, you see."

Buckles hesitated. He always felt a bit sorry for Morgana. "He might have done," he said finally. She flashed him a grateful look. "How have your master's efforts been?"

Morgana started to sniffle. "He just keeps setting himself on fire! Day after day, robe after blackened robe! I'm starting to worry that he's gone completely mad! You should have seen him this morning, stomping about grumbling that Nyperius sent this storm to stall him. He thinks he's one step away from success but all he's doing is covering the plains with ash!"

"I suppose you'll want to hear this, then," the cat said diffidently.

"You found something?" Morgana asked.

"Well… yes, possibly. It isn't exactly magic, though…"

"Anything! As long as it will work!"

"There's… a few miles from your cottage, there is a small religious conclave in possession of a certain artifact. A catapult, which they use to fire dangerous or unknown objects into the sun to destroy them."

"And it works‽"

"Apparently so, from what I can gather…"

"Thank you, Commodore Buckles!"

"Of course, Morgana. Anytime." There followed a short silence.

Morgana said, "Do you know, Commodore, I heard an interesting fact the other day."

"Yes?" he said.

"I heard that horses and donkeys can mate with each other, even though they are completely different animals."

"Ah, yes. I have heard that. Nature can be quite interesting."

There was another period of silence, five seconds long but stretched out to eternity.

"I had better go and report to Arditio," said Morgana, just slightly too quickly.

"Yes, I should see if there is any more digging to do."

In the small hours of the morning, wizard and salamander crept into the small village and made their way to the town square, where the catapult lay atop a podium, primed and ready to hurl the ungodly to their demise.

"I'm not certain that I should use this, Morgana," said Arditio. "I've nearly perfected my invocation, after all."

"Ah, but Master," said Morgana, inventing wildly. "What is the point in tiring yourself out unnecessarily? When the credulous fools here have unknowingly given you the perfect path to success?"

"Yes, yes. I suppose you're correct." He set the salamander on the ground and gave it an awkward pat on the head. "I… realize that I have not attended on you as I should in these days past, Morgana."

"No, Master. I understand. I am the familiar. It is my duty to attend you."

"Quite right, but there was still no reason to be so demanding. You have done an excellent job as my familiar, Morgana, and once I have sorted out my residence on the Sun to my satisfaction I shall make for you a pond. A real pond where you can live."

"I look forward to seeing it, Master." Morgana had no tear ducts. For this, she was grateful.

Arditio climbed into the bowl of the catapult and cut the rope with a flame. With a whoosh, he was gone, into the rising sun.

Arditio felt power, coursing through his veins, getting stronger and stronger as he shot towards his destination. As he had expected, as he rose above the Earth it grew colder and colder. What he had not expected was the lack of air. With the might of the sun filling him, though, that was no problem. He wrapped himself in a cocoon of air and soared on.

He began getting warmer, far warmer than he had anticipated. Perhaps his calculations had been slightly off. he should have reached the next band of cold by now. It didn't matter. He incorporated a heat shield into his air cocoon as easily as he breathed. This was strength. This was life, swirling around him and soaking into his bones. Finally, HE would be superior. Finally, HE would best that pale excuse for a wizard. He would blast him off the face of the moon. He would blast the moon, once for every time that he lost a customer.

He approached the Sun's surface. Heat and light beyond his wildest dreams filled his vision. He tried to reorient himself, aiming his feet towards his landing spot…

…and felt all that power drain through his body and back into the Sun. His shields collapsed. His vision went white.

And Arditio, Master of the Fiery Orb, met the Sun.

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