Magic and Martial Arts is off to the printer!

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    • Magic and Martial Arts is off to the printer!

      We have finally sent off the last of the edited documents to the printer, and the process has begun! As things are schedule now, we should see the shipment of books arriving at our publisher by the midddle of May!... To celebrate, I figured I'd share another illustration and bit of fiction...

      Here we have another excellent piece by our contributing artist Ilsa Gort. She based this work on another excellent piece of fiction by Dylan Birtolo heralding in the beginning of our Magic Rituals chapter...


      Scottie and Andrew

      [Blocked Image:]

      Chanchala crouched down and traced the designs carved into the amulet with one of her claws. They seemed to mirror the mystic symbols that her companion, a tall, green-scaled gecko, was etching into the soft stone. His nails scraped against the rock with a screech that made Chanchala’s fur stand on end along the back of her neck. She rubbed her hand over the area a few times until the hairs rested back down.

      Once the sir’hibas finished tracing his designs, he stood up and spun in a slow circle inspecting his handiwork. After he made a complete circle, Raáhi stretched and flexed his shoulders back. A soft but audible pop filled the tent. He looked up to meet Chanchala’s gaze and nodded once with a small grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Chanchala stood up as well, and placed the enchanted amulet around her neck.

      “Are you ready?” she asked.

      Raáhi nodded again. “I am. Are you ready to do your part?”

      The panther smiled and her eyes glimmered in anticipation. “This is going to be exciting.”

      Raáhi frowned. “Remember our purpose, my dear. Do not lose sight of the goal in your excitement.”

      “And I know you’ll be watching me all the time to keep me from straying from the path.” With a final flash of her teeth, Chanchala tucked the amulet into her tunic, turned and walked out of the tent.

      Before the flap of the tent even stopped moving, Raáhi sat down in the center of the ritual circle with his legs crossed in front of his body. He closed his eyes and focused his attention inward, entering the trance that would allow him to call up the binding strength of all the Elements necessary for the tasks to come. He could feel his prána gathering and filling up his veins. It provided a slight warming sensation that was comforting. Opening up the gates in his mind, he pushed the energy through it and used that mystic force to open a rift between the physical world and the Dream.

      There was no noticeable change in the tent, but from a spiritual perspective a large opening appeared in the air above Raáhi’s head. He saw himself rising up from his body. When he looked down, he saw his physical form surrounded by the symbols of power. From this perspective they emitted a pulsating light that made shadows dance across his reptilian face and lit the cracks between his scales
      But he had no time to admire the view. Raáhi pushed his consciousness up, floating from his body through the open portal and stepping into the realm of dreams. The immediate terrain around him reflected his mind-set and the force of his will. He found himself standing in an imaginary reproduction of his own ritual chamber back home. The cobbled stones of the floor spread around him, vanishing into the Dream. A font filled with water stood just to his right upon a short stone column, surrounded by ink-dark symbols. With a thought, a crystal brazier appeared in the air just above his head, casting more than enough light to work by.

      Everything was as it needed to be. Raáhi turned and stood in front of the basin of water. Closing his eyes, he imagined the arcane symbols surrounding his body in the physical realm. When he opened his eyes, they appeared before him, floating and translucent. He put his hand in the center of the circle and the energy from the magical glyphs flowed out and gathered into his hand until it took on a pearly glow. Reaching down into the water he traced small circles while picturing his companion; focusing upon the amulet she wore, endowed through an earlier ritual with the power to link them both together in thought and spirit, and allowing him to see her and her greater surroundings from within the Dream. After a few circles, an image appeared in the water: a panther running down a trail through the mountains. Chanchala crouched down and slid on her stomach until she was at the edge of a cliff. With a simple gesture, Raáhi shifted the image in the water so he could see the building below that had captured her attention.

      It was a rustic, two-story residence that spoke of reclusive wealth; with terraced gardens in the back and an ornate wooden fence surrounding the well-maintained grounds on all sides. Several guards walked around the edges of the fence, looking for any sign of intruders. Raáhi stroked his chin as he considered what the best course of action would be. Exerting his will, he shifted the view again so that he could see along the rooftops and peer in through the windows. While the guards maintained a vigilant security, it would be possible for someone to enter the building unnoticed, if they could get to the roof and then crawl in through a second floor window. Of course, that would require the ability to fly or a near-impossible jump from the cliff.

      Re-centering the view on Chanchala, he pushed out with his mind, tapping once again into the power of the symbols. A small stream of light flowed from them to the water. He pushed his thoughts into that stream, reaching out to Chanchala.

      “It would appear that your best opportunity would be to get to the rooftop and climb in through a window. There are too many guards surrounding the place for any other option.”
      When Chanchala responded, it was in her mind, and her mouth remained clamped shut in the image. “I don’t think I’d make that jump by myself. Plan on giving me a bit of a boost?”

      Raáhi smiled. He did not respond to the inquiry but instead changed the focus of his energies. It was time to bless her with the traits she required. He murmured to himself, his voice whispering and echoing in the Dream.

      “Lord Kramah, lend your deadly strength to this jánah, so that she may pass through the gauntlet of trials that stand between her and her goals.” He felt the magic rise within him as if siphoned from the depths of the surrounding Dream.

      The stream flowing from the glyphs to the water widened and grew in intensity. It also shifted color from white to a blue glow that passed directly into Chanchala’s body. As the energy flowed into the image, it appeared as if Chanchala grew stronger. Her muscles bulged slightly as the energy flowed into her. She stood up and backed several steps away from the edge of the cliff, her hand lightly brushed across the amulet under her tunic. Taking a running start, she pushed off the edge of the cliff and soared through the air. The extra power in her legs propelled her over the distance and she landed on the wooden roof. As soon as she made contact, she transitioned into a roll. She sank her claws into the surface to keep from sliding and lay there for a moment not daring to move. Raáhi shifted his image around to see if any of the guards had noticed. A few looked up, but seeing nothing, went back to their rounds. Raáhi sent a brief pulse to his companion to let her know the coast was clear.

      Chanchala made her way to the edge of the roof and took a brief peek over it before she leaned out and pried open a window on the second floor. Gripping the edge in both hands, she swung over and tucked her legs up to pass through the window in one smooth motion. She landed in a crouch and held both hands out in front of her for balance. The two guards in the room turned to look at the source of the noise. Chanchala smiled.

      Rushing forward, she turned her body and delivered a quick triple elbow to the first guard. He clutched his chest where she delivered the blows and fell to the ground. The second guard came forward and reached out to grab her arm. He clamped down hard enough to make her gasp in pain. With a snarl she twisted her arm to expose her opponent’s elbow. She delivered a hard jab with her fingers to the nerve cluster near his shoulder. His arm fell to his side, unable to move. Before he had a chance to shout a warning, Chanchala delivered a back-fist against his jaw that sent him spinning to the ground where he lay without moving.

      Raáhi watched over her as she sprinted out of the room, his mystical strength still pouring into her. It gave her the ability to burst through a door with her shoulder. The room was empty, but something felt off; it felt as if another person was watching. Raáhi was about to probe the room further when he felt his connection to Chanchala shatter. The stream flowing into her fragmented and sent blue sparks of fading energy through the air in his chamber.

      As he watched, a red glow surrounded Chanchala and her movements slowed as three soldiers poured into the room. She backed up from them, trying to keep her distance. As she moved, she stumbled - unaccustomed to her body responding so sluggishly. A rope was tied to the wall next to her that connected to the chandelier in the room. She untied it, letting the chandelier crash to the ground and burying the room in darkness. Raáhi knew that would help her, but if he couldn’t undo the magic slowing her, it was only a matter of time before she fell.

      Opening up his mind, he searched out the source of the magic, tracing the red current back to its root. When he found it, the room around him disappeared and he stood in a vast, open space with distant burning crystal spheres and shimmering mists providing illumination. A cobra stood a small distance away from him, gazing at him with cold, unblinking eyes. By way of greeting she lifted her hand and a stream of flame shot towards Raáhi.

      In response, Raáhi gestured up and a wall of ice formed in the open air. It deflected the gout of flame, but melted in its attempt at defense. Raáhi lifted his hands with the palms up and fingers spread out to grasp the sky. Large fingers of mystic earth rose from the surrounding mists, enclosing the unknown sir’hibas and tightening around her, attempting to trap her in their grasp. She held out her hands to both sides and a small globe of mystic power formed around her body, its energy flickering as the stone hands tried to crush the cobra. Raáhi closed his eyes and focused his attention. The hands broke the globe of energy with the sound of a hundred shattering windows, crushing the serpent with relative ease. The cobra sir’hibas screamed in pain and rage as she disappeared from the Dream, apparently banished back to the physical realm.

      Raáhi returned his attention to his companion. The empty sky disappeared to be replaced once again with his imaginary ritual chamber. He had to hold onto the water basin for balance – his energy reserves were draining rapidly. But there was still more work he had to do. Turning his attention back to the water, it centered in on Chanchala once again, but the scene remained black. He could sense her, and more importantly, the magic corded around her body which seemed to constrain her in some way.

      “Move, quickly!” he sent to Chanchala as he began to work on her spiritual bindings. “They have a sir’hibas.”

      “I’d love to, but I feel like I’m stuck in a bog!” The stress was clear in the thought as it came through rapidly, like the mental equivalent of shouting.

      The magic holding her was a glowing weave wrapped around her body, a curse that held her still as surely as his own blessing had given her strength. Raáhi just needed to find the end strand. Searching around her body in the darkness, he examined the mystical energy. The sir’hibas may have not been a competent mystic combatant, but she was a master of the Ritual of Endowment. It took several seconds for Raáhi to find the stray end of the vile energy. Working frantically with both hands, he picked it up and began to unwind the knot binding the curse. As soon as the knot was unleashed, the energy fell off of Chanchala like a poorly-wrapped silk scarf. The effort forced him to his knees so that he had to put one arm on the table to keep from falling over.

      In the dark room, Chanchala breathed an audible sigh of relief. Taking a moment to focus internally, she could sense where everyone in the room was. They fumbled about with at least one hand outstretched looking for her. She grinned. Twisting around, she delivered a snap kick to the abdomen of one of the guards. The jánah fell over with a moan. The other guards turned towards the sound and rushed her position. Chanchala turned around and ran towards the wall. Planting her foot on it, she used her momentum to run up a few paces. With a hard push she went flying back from the wall and twisted her body in midair. The two guards behind her never saw the blows coming. Both of her feet connected with their jaws, dropping them to the ground.

      Feeling along the wall, she found the door and stepped through it. She heard a soft gasp as she stepped into the next room. A frightened young tiger sat on the edge of a very large bed. He looked up at her with wide eyes.

      “I’m here to take you home,” Chanchala said as she held out her hand. Now she just needed to get the two of them out.