Mystic Man is the greatest superhero in his universe or any universe. Born Isaac Eckspo, Mystic Man didn’t believe in things such as universe hopping or superhuman strength before he got his powers. All that has changed now, and he holds the literal heartbeat of the multiverse in his hands with every blast he takes.
But what if there is more? Even though his name is Mystic Man, his powers are cosmic. They adhere to a certain set of rules that Isaac has been learning and decoding, all while trying to be the best superhero he can be. But he doesn’t know about magic.
Magic once ruled his realm. Every person and creature lived in complete harmony, in accordance with the laws of magic at the time. There’s been no sign of it recently, however. Not until now.
This is the story of a master and an apprentice. The story of wisdom versus emotion. This is the story of how magic died.
Reia the Raucous walked the dirt path through the forest. She noticed the forest had recovered well from the recent storms, even though she found more than her fair share of flayed trees and dead animals. And where there were dead animals, there were hunters taking advantage, and more hunters telling the other hunters they were on enemy territory. Swords would be drawn and bloodshed would soon follow that. Except when Reia passed one such squabble, she merely flashed her hands and let the sparks lightly fly free from her fingertips. Most of the hunters knew what that meant, the ones who didn’t still had to obey the ceasefire set forth by the King. Still, they snickered and gestured that Reia was out of her league. That this bitch should have known her place. And they charged her as if she was the fattest boar they had ever seen.
A deep sigh came from Reia as the hunters charged her. Why was her reputation still challenged? And why, or how rather, did these buffoons not know who she was. No matter, she didn’t want to kill them, even though legally she could. Reia simply snapped her fingers and flames caught at the bottom of the hunter’s pants. They were plain-looking men, and their clothing signaled a poor tribe or family. Or perhaps they were nomads. All this and more going through Reia’s mind as the hunters began screaming like children.
No, more like babies being birthed. Screaming and flailing. The hunters behind them laughed lightly, but not loud enough that Reia’s gaze caught them. After about a minute, their clothes burnt off and some light burns showed on their skin. Reia then told the hunters to leave each other alone. There were plenty of dead animals in the forest, enough for everyone.
“There’s some live ones too,” Reia said. “Or are none of you man enough to challenge them?”
She continued down the path and smiled as the hunters just stared at her, embarrassed, two of them completely nude.
The scenic route suited Reia. The path took a sharp left turn leading to a hill covered in dead leaves and pine needles. She knew she was getting close. Right off the path, extending from the turn, was a thick collection of trees. Reia could hardly see through it and there wasn’t much light shining through. So that’s where she decided to go.
When she walked into the dense collection of trees, Reia could not see the other side. The trees seemed to be blocking, or maybe even barricading some sort of community. She could see small huts and one or two stone buildings between the trees. As she stepped through, the smell of smoke made her cough furiously. If this was once a community, it wasn’t one anymore. Everything was scorched, no sign of life, no sign of anything.
The smoke was recent too. Reia guessed within the last couple of days. The huts were black and grey, and she could hear the stone lightly crumbling in the buildings. Reia kept her distance. She knew that there may be something lingering in that little community, and she was perfectly fine keeping that a mystery. She put her hand to the ground.
“Who did this to you?” she asked quietly. “Was it Ra’cso, our glorious king?”
Reia didn’t want to leave this community the way it was. If it was the doing of the King, she didn’t want it to remain a reminder of his rule. But she didn’t have time or the patience to save this place. But she did have a spell. It was a risky one, but one she had been waiting to try for some time.
With her hand still on the smoky ground, she focused all her efforts on the stone building. It seemed to be the epicenter of this small community. Perhaps some sort of town hall. Or was it the former King’s quarters? And if so, how many lived here with the King? How big was his family, how long had his bloodline been? Were they all dead now? The pain of that realization fueled Reia as her hands began to glow green now. But she calmed herself, letting the positive energy of the forest guide her. Underneath her hand, the ground shook softly and Reia noticed the first sign of her work.
From the ash next to a smoldering pile of logs, sprouted a small flower. It wasn’t the best-looking flower, but Reia was proud at the colors. Pink, yellow, and was that gold? She couldn’t tell. Next, the ash and sticks began to fly away, disintegrating into the wind, their smell gone with them. In their place, lush green grass rose. First slowly, but soon Reia could notice the grass rising, as well as other plants. Each hut was dusted, and where there was once blood and smoke, now there was moss, lichens, and even some mushrooms towards the edges of the huts. Each of the buildings grew brown, aging rapidly, and moss covered their tops. Followed by yellow and dark green vines, which at first, resembled people, although not Reia’s intention.
When the spell finished, Reia was exhausted. She stood in place for a moment, then walked closer to admire her work. The smell of fresh grass and flowers attacked the most inner parts of her nose. Birds could be heard chirping nearby, which she hadn’t heard since before she saw the hunters. What was once a burnt community, had been turned into a tranquil nest of nature. It just needed one more thing.
Reia clasped her hands together and forcefully extended them from her body. This spell was easier. As her hands went forward, the ground split forming a small canal. Water began trickling from the ground. That trickle turned into a continuous stream that looped through the community and back to where Reia stood. She smiled.
“And they say my powers are only good for destruction.”
Confident and filled with purpose, Reia continued up the hill, hearing the water flowing behind her. Much better than the sound of nervous breathing from those flimsy hunters.
It wasn’t long until Reia came upon her destination. Except she had no intention on going into the enormous city that lay in front of her. From the path, she could smell the nastiness of civilization. Many would find themselves lucky to reach this city’s great wall. Even though she was still tired from her earlier spell, Reia closed her eyes and thought of where she needed to be. She then clasped her hands together again and this time extended them behind her. Opening her eyes, she found herself in an old crypt.
This was a crypt she recognized; the same one she had come across the last time she was in this city. She followed the patterns on the wall until she reached a door. Following tradition, Reia knocked rhythmically signally that it was indeed her. The door opened.
Inside, Reia found what she had expected. Finding the burnt community was something she didn’t plan. Using one of her more recent spells to symbolically heal the community was another thing she didn’t plan on doing. But being here, in this room, with the three greatest wizards in the realm while the rest of society carried on without them, was something she had expected to be doing today. She just didn’t want to.
Everyone seemed accounted for. The room they were in seemed as if it should feel confined, perhaps a space reserved for prisoners or even dusty brooms and tools. But no, just like everything else in this castle it was elegant. Even with no windows and little to no light, the room looked like a nice place to study. Reia noticed a bookshelf behind the table where the wizards sat. She also noticed food on the round table. Nothing too fancy, just some bread and wine, but the eldest of the wizards wasn’t shy about his appetite. There were no guards, no knights, or any other royal men here. The fate of the realm would be decided among them, and Reia still had trouble wrapping her mind around the fact that she was here. Still, she sat and waited for the meeting to start.
“Now that Reia has finally decided to join us,” one wizard said, “We can begin.”
The one who spoke held the most power, officially, among the wizards. He was who Reia suspected of burning the community she healed earlier. King Ra’cso of the mighty Eloni family, King of all the men and women in the mortal realm of Frohnir, the most powerful wizard in the history of time—Reia couldn’t remember the rest but it was hardly important. She never liked Ra’cso. He was your typical king. Arrogant, stupid, lazy. Too much power and never enough brains. Inherited from his family, all now dead, and the head of a monarchy that people loved, which gave him the freedom to be an idiot. More time to spend perfecting his spells, trying them out on anyone who disobeyed his command, any who dare question his rule. There was a disdain in his voice as he addressed Reia.
“Quite right, why have you called us here brother?”
The King’s brother, Racsa. He denounced the throne at an early age and abandoned the great city of Yulta. Trained others in the ways of magic while traveling the world. But he eventually met a woman with whom he married, settled in a small town near the mountain range down south. Most called them barbarians, and they’d be right. But not Racsa. Where his brother was a stump of a man, not even taller than Reia, Racsa towered over everyone. Not quite a giant, but his dark hair and beard gave him a presence. Reia smiled as she looked and compared the two brothers. Ra’cso and his lightly sun-streaked hair, clean shaven face. Soft features. She wondered if their separate lives had caused the disparity in looks or if they always looked this way. Like two complete and utter strangers.
“You know why, brother. Even as you live and fornicate with those beasts in the mountains you know why I’ve called us here today,” the King said.
“Enlighten me, brother. And call my people beasts again and I’ll cut your throat.”
Ra’cso made a face but acknowledged that he wouldn’t slip up again. He continued.
“We are considered to be the four greatest wizards in the realm.”
A strange, long glance at Reia. She frowned.
“Get on with it,” she said.
“Right. Well, I don’t know how else to say this, but our magic is dying. And not just our magic but magic itself. Our society, our way of living as we know it, is coming down around us.”
“What do you mean, brother? What nonsense are you spouting?”
“Our laws, our rules of magic, we’ve always followed them precisely. Have always taken the necessary steps required of us to please the Gods, replenish ourselves. But I’m afraid it is no longer enough. Every night, when I pray, I no longer feel the healing touch of the divine. Where I once heard songs in my ear, there’s silence. And I feel it with every spell I cast. I see it in our world, in our children. Famine, drought, rebellion. Magic as I said, brother, is dying.”
A still, stiff silence came over the room.
“What say any of you?” King Ra’cso pleaded. There wasn’t demand in voice, but actual worry. Actual inquiry.
“We can survive without magic,” Racsa finally said. “What you consider to be the end of our civilization may just be a sign of growth. Of maturity. We shouldn’t rely on divine, mystical forces for everything. We can decide our fate, not make-believe Gods.”
“Make-believe? I—I can’t believe you. You’re the same man who taught me, your younger brother everything about magic. How to harness it, how to respect it. You’re the one who told me our world relied on a bond between us and magic. And now, you talk as if it doesn’t exist.”
“Brother, we don’t need it,” Racsa said. His voice was stern.
Reia just sat there, taking everything in. What the King said was true, and had been known by them for some time, even though Racsa was playing dumb.
“What say you, Benjamin?” Ra’cso said.
She had forgotten that her former mentor, Benjamin, had been there. Old age had treated him well. His dark skin was complemented by the blue and gold of his traditional robe he wore. His beard, which was thinner than usual was the one thing that showed his age. Grey with only spots of black poking through. Benjamin sighed as King Ra’cso said his name. Or maybe he was upset that he had to finally stop eating bread and drinking wine. His face was one of someone who forgot he was supposed to be here today, as if he had better things to do.
“You’re not wrong, my King,” he said quietly. Reia could tell that everyone was focusing, listening and holding on to every word he spoke.
“We simply cannot abide by the old ways of magic. We must grow, we must adapt,” Benjamin said.
Reia knew where this was going.
“We’re not having this conversation again, old man,” the king said. “What you proposed would send our kingdom into chaos. Imagine it, if everyone knew magic.”
“But everyone does know magic,” Benjamin said louder this time. “Why refuse to teach it?”
“And if I find out you’ve been doing it again, I’ll burn you in the city square,” Ra’cso said.
“Is that what happened to that small community outside the city?”
Reia’s words pierced through the tense sparring of Benjamin and Ra’cso. She couldn’t stand the jockeying and the delaying of the inevitable. Ra’cso had his vision for the future of the realm. His future for magic. Reia believed the three of them, Benjamin, herself, and Racsa, truly wanted a world where magic was shared with all, not consolidated to royal blood and wealthy families.
“The Gods have clearly endowed us with magic for a reason. And not just us, but the world. You cannot burn down whole communities, slaughter innocents, just because they stumble across it. It isn’t right,” Reia said.
“Did you do this?” Racsa asked his brother.
Ra’cso said nothing.
“Of course he did,” Benjamin said. “He’s forgotten the core principles.”
Ra’cso got up from the table. He was an awfully little man. He was wearing the traditional clothing the King, or Queen, of Yulta would wear. Gold was far and away their favorite color. And Ra’cso was gold from head to toe. Colorful robes, silk pants, and even a headpiece that Reia had never seen him wear before. It also had some long white feathers hanging from the back. All in all, Reia thought him to be a bit overdressed for the occasion.
He started pacing inside the room. And since the room was small, his pacing quickly became obnoxious. Scooting back and forth like a hound waiting for dinner. Eyes on the table. Not staring at anyone, just fixated on the table itself, which from what Reia could tell, was just a normal table. Was he having a breakdown? Had the King gone mad? If so, Reia wasn’t sure the three of them were powerful enough to kill him. Especially Benjamin. Too tepid in his old age. Racsa? Too passive. She would be the only hope for the realm if this little man lost his mind.
She thought it a real possibility when Ra’cso stopped in the middle of the room, raising his hands. Reia clutched the bottom of her chair so hard she thought the wood would go right through her. But then, when she saw Ra’cso raise his hands in a familiar shape, she loosened her grip. Controlled her breathing. She looked over at Benjamin, who nodded slightly. But almost too slightly. Did she imagine it? Reia questioned everything in her head as Ra’cso began to speak.
“The pillars,” he said sternly. “Long ago, the Gods spoke to us. You remember, we were a plain people then. The kingdom of Yulta hadn’t yet existed. Neither did the other great tribes and families in our land. But the Gods chose a lucky man with whom to commune, making him the first wizard.”
Reia was bored now. That feeling of impending doom in her mind now long gone. But as she looked at Benjamin again, another slight cue. He glared at her, probably noticing her boredom, perhaps even using a mind-reading spell, with a look that said, “Pay attention, or you’ll miss it.” She sat up in her chair and continued to listen to the pointless speech.
“The Gods spoke to him in many ways. Most of them unorthodox, but this man always proved himself worthy. Always united us. He spoke of three pillars of magic. Wisdom, Courage, and Love. He spoke of how we must always, always abide by those principles keeping the best of us in charge. Only then, would the Gods allow us this power. Only then, could we practice magic.”
He paused, still holding his hands in the triangle shape.
“The process was painful. Many died. Wars were fought. But now, we have found the process to find those worthy to lead. We’ve come to understand the Gods. Us here in this room, possess the three pillars. You, Benjamin are clearly wisdom. Your travels are legendary and your magic is gentle. While I do not agree with your way of living, you are clearly the wisest.”
Ra’cso turned to his brother with an endearing look on his face. He put his hand on Racsa’s shoulder.
“And you, dear brother. You left the great city. The most powerful domain in the realm, all because of your beliefs. I don’t agree with a single choice you’ve made since then, but it is clear you have the most courage among us.”
He turned his gaze to Reia. Benjamin was now gazing at her too. “Here it comes” was written boldly across his face. Ra’cso smiled. It took what seemed like eternity for his mouth to expand completely, but when it did, Reia didn’t feel safe or welcomed.
“And I clearly am love,” he said. “I love the people in this kingdom. I love Yulta. And I will do anything to protect them, out of love. So yes, I did burn that community and the treasonous bastards who lived there. But without an ounce of hate. Only love.”
Ra’cso finally sat down. He thumped in his chair, his gut hitting the table as he did so. He folded his arms, like a child who thought he just won an argument.
“We’re following the principles. Have heeded the words of the Gods. And have found the best among us to guide the realm. Why are we dying?” Ra’cso asked.
Reia hadn’t looked up from the table since the King had stared at her awkwardly. She could feel a heat rising in her throat. She thought she might cry at first, but then felt as if she was going to get sick. Anger was flowing through her. Embarrassment too.
“Why am I here?” she asked.
“You dare don’t answer your king?” Ra’cso asked.
“Fuck the king. Why. Am. I. Here?” Reia could feel the energy now. And could see blue smoke starting to manifest beneath her.
Another stiff silence came into the room.
Ra’cso sighed deeply.
“You’re only here because of Benjamin,” he said. “In truth, you shouldn’t be hearing a word of this.”
If Ra’cso had said this even a year ago, Reia would have killed him where he sat. And in turn, would have been executed. But now, she just let the anger consume her. Waiting to see what the rest of the room’s response would be. Racsa just sat there, a stoic look on his face as he continued to observe. When Reia looked over to Benjamin she noticed he was about to say something. It was his turn to stand up and begin pacing around the room. He struggled to his feet at first but eventually stood above them. He was much taller than Ra’cso.
“That’s not why she’s here,” Benjamin said coldly. The gentleness of his voice was gone.
Reia sat back in her chair, exhausted. She was not in the mood for another lecture. She then decided to get up from the table and leave these men with to deal with this themselves. If their world was in trouble, she was going to make sure she enjoyed the rest of her time here.
The door was locked though.
When Reia pulled on it a second time, Racsa’s demeanor changed. He became animalistic, ready to pounce on the next person to say the wrong thing. Ra’cso too, began preparing a spell, waving his hands above his head, chanting something under his breath.
“Sit down, Reia,” Benjamin said. He was standing against the wall now, arms folded. The two brothers gave him one last look before they both tried to get out of their seats to apprehend him. But Benjamin, the wisest of the wizards in Yulta, had come prepared. Benjamin waved his hand quickly across his body and the two brothers were frozen in time. Or stuck to their chairs, Reia couldn’t tell. The spell was quick, but it was especially efficient. The look of shock on their face was enough of a victory, but she didn’t feel out of danger yet. Still, Benjamin must have a good reason for—whatever this was. So she sat.
“I’ll keep this short,” Benjamin said. “You’re wrong about the three pillars, my King.”
It was his turn to hold his hand up this time. Instead of the normal figure Reia had seen in every history book and scroll in Yulta, Benjamin had his hands in a new formation. She couldn’t tell what it was.
“The first wizard communed with the Gods, yes. That much is true. But we have taken all the wrong lessons from it. The first being this idea of royal blood. Racso, you’re a fool for thinking common people shouldn’t learn the ways of magic. Magic is about balance. About our relationship with life and the Gods themselves. By shutting them out, and reserving it for only us and a few others, we’ve stifled our growth. Have become tyrants lording over those we deem weak. You should never have killed those people.”
Out of everything he just said, Reia couldn’t believe Benjamin said the King’s name in common tongue. And not in the royal, if not pretentious, way it was always said. Whatever Benjamin’s goal, Reia figured she wouldn’t be leaving this room alive.
“Balance. Magic is all about balance. And we’ve misinterpreted the balance the Gods always intended us to have.”
His hands began to glow a soft white now. And it was Reia who now felt frozen in time. She wanted to move with all her might, but she just sat there. The brothers continued to watch on.
“You were right on everything, Racso, except the pillars. There’s a fourth that is needed for this world to become whole. And you possess that, my former pupil.”
Ra’cso had heard enough. Somehow, he had broken free of Benjamin’s spell. He lunged forward to attack, but Benjamin simply whipped his fingers to the left, and a sliver of white light came into the room. Reia hardly saw the light, but she saw it cut across the King’s throat. As soon as it did, the white light was gone and Ra’cso lay on the ground, holding his throat, bleeding, pleading for someone to help him.
“Hate,” Benjamin continued. “Hate is the fourth pillar. And you, are hate, Reia. With hate, we become complete.”
“Then why go through all this? Why kill my brother? We can still balance,” Racsa said calmly. Was he preparing to break the spell too? Reia didn’t think so, it was just in his nature to remain so calm even in the face of death.
“I thought about that,” Benjamin said. His voice lowered now, and the softness returned.
“But your brother never listened. I spoke with him about this a long time ago. He laughed at me. I searched, Racsa, searched day and night for the answers. And here, all this time, I was training the fourth pillar.”
A bolt of lightning interrupted Benjamin. He flew back, hitting the wall. Reia stood over him, electricity sparking off her body as she smiled.
“You know, I’m getting tired of you all talking about me like I’m not here,” she said.
Benjamin slowly stood up. He didn’t assume a fighting stance, though.
“Reia, please. What I’m proposing. It—it’s for the best.”
“And what exactly are you proposing, mentor?”
Benjamin looked down at the floor, his face looked somewhat ashamed. He raised his hands in that odd shape again. This time however, the floor began to rumble. Then the rumble turned into a ferocious shake. Reia didn’t want to wait around and find out what Benjamin had planned. So she blasted the door open, hoping to see the crypt on the other side.
Except, she didn’t. As she stared past the door, she saw…nothing. Absolutely nothing. No crypt, no flames, no bad statues of the wizards who came before her. Just nothing. She wanted to describe it as blackness, but this had no color. It was oblivion, the edge of existence where nothing existed at all.
“I’ve already done it, Reia. I’m so sorry. I needed you to complete the seal. And it’s almost complete.”
Reia dropped to her knees. She looked back at the table hoping to see Racsa, but he was gone. Had he escaped? Did Benjamin kill him? She felt lost, she felt empty. As she rose to her feet, she had only one question for her former teacher.
“All those people,” she said. “Why kill everyone in our realm?”
“They won’t even remember being alive,” Benjamin said. “This is what’s right. The Gods have deemed it so.”
“They should be able to choose!” Reia screamed. Since she was going to die anyway, she decided to unleash every ounce of energy she had, hoping she could maybe change something.
With her anger still powering her, Reia floated into the air, the room had evaporated now. The two of them were flying through oblivion, except this time, a barrage of color was around them. With every charge of lightning Reia conjured, their surroundings changed. Benjamin blocked each attack, but she could tell it was taking a toll on him.
She used the lightning to make a sword of pure energy. Benjamin returned the favor by making one the bright white of the thing that killed Ra’cso. The two of them clashed. Benjamin began to engage in typical sword combat, but Reia dissolved her sword, turning it into a pair of hands. The lightning hands grabbed Benjamin and held him in place. She followed that with a surge of energy.
“You say I’m hatred, right? Feel all of it, Benjamin. Feel it all as you die!”
She could hardly see as the energy exploded from her fingertips. She could feel her muscles ripping and her bones beginning to crack. It felt good though, Reia knew that she was close to death. Pushing herself this hard in the mortal realm would have killed her almost instantly. But here, in the strange and terrifying place, she could unleash. And not Benjamin, not Ra’cso, or any of the other idiot wizards in Yulta, could do a thing about it.
Benjamin still had some fight in him though. He broke free of Reia’s hold and made his hands form the weird shape again. Once again, his hands lit up white, but this time, the color faded away. And with it, did Reia’s power. She felt as if the magic itself had been sucked from her. As Benjamin got closer, his hands continuing to glow white, Reia felt tired. Like she hadn’t slept in weeks.
“All of that, that beautiful, bold color. That was you, Reia. You caused that. If there was any doubt of you as a pillar of magic, there isn’t now. Just a shame that no one was here to witness it.”
Reia couldn’t move. She had exhausted everything into that final blow. And yet, Benjamin stood over her.
“What—what are you doing?” she said weakly.
“Locking you, me, and everyone in our realm away. In a dark, empty dimension where we will be forgotten. We aren’t dying Reia, we’re just—fading.”
“Feels like dying to me,” she said.
She wanted to say something else. She wanted to tell Benjamin that this plan wouldn’t work. That magic couldn’t be contained, no matter what spell he used. She also wanted to kill him and make him feel the pain she had felt over her life.
Just when I was coming to terms with everything. She couldn’t help but find the humor in what was happening. Her entire life had, in fact, been about what Benjamin had said. Hatred drove her. Drove her to be the best wizard when women were mainly excluded from doing so. Drove her to learn all she could learn, harness her skills and master every spell there was to master. Hatred was a part of who she was.
But Benjamin was wrong. Reia watched as Benjamin faded into nothing. All that remained were his hands, and even those disappeared. But the white shape remained. Bright as ever, taunting her.
As she began to fade away, she knew that Benjamin was wrong. Because if her life had taught her anything it’s that hatred is a hinderance. Not a blessing or even a pillar of magic. It’s why she believed he would fail. Maybe the Gods tricked him. Maybe he was too cowardly to live without magic. Whatever the reason, she knew she wasn’t only hatred. Because as Reia closed her eyes, all she could see was the beautiful community she healed before coming to the city. The moss, trees, the flowers. The river. That was who she was. Equal parts beauty and aggression. She hated that it took her so long to learn that side of magic, but grateful she did. She could die happy…
Isaac Eckspo aka Mystic Man gained his powers when a man named Erasmus jumped universes. The shift in power changed the dynamic of every universe in existence. The shift caused two astronauts to get stranded in space, started the pet project of a billionaire on Earth, and ignited a galactic war in the Crab Nebula. It also freed Reia the Raucous from the dimension that Benjamin sent her. Magic did die. But now, it has returned. But Mystic Man, and the people of Earth have no idea…
Thank you so much for reading this short story! I got this idea a little while ago and I’m happy it’s finally done and out to the world. The universe keeps growing and Mystic Man has A LOT of things do deal with now. But what’s he been up to during all of this? Next time, I want to share a short story about a day in the life of Mystic Man. And don’t worry, if you haven’t read the novel, you won’t be spoiled. Just some cool stuff that Mystic Man does during his day. I really hope you enjoyed this short story though. I’ll link the Mystic Man novel below and if you want to check out my other shorts in this universe. Sector 43 (the astronauts getting lost), Project Element (the billionaire pet project), and Simon’s War (the galactic war) Each features Mystic Man in some capacity, and every character from these stories will be featured again in some capacity. Thanks again for reading. Until next time!