Lost Island of Aiaia
Albion was not going to the country. He had traveled west to the Tyrhennian coast and from there found a boat to take him to his true destination. He hadn’t needed a crew; he was the most powerful mage in Rome after all, and he could simply make a crew.
So it was that he lounged on a thirteen meter catamaran as it cut through the clear blue Mediterranean water. Around him minor spirits buzzed with work as they adjusted their course and the lines of the sails. Most were only barely visible, minor spirits flitting about the standing lines that had no mind of their own save their intended function.
“We’re on course with a steady wind, captain!” The sound of the bow cutting through waves was interrupted by the chipper voice of Suty, his personal attendant and daemon. She was his favored tool for most jobs, smart enough for complex tasks but with an infinite supply of loyalty so long as he indulged her occasional quirks. She looked like one expected a feminine demon would, her skin was grey save for the white runic markings across her skin written in no language he knew of (She insisted they meant “renewal” but he doubted she knew what was actually written there). The scleras of her eyes were black, and her irises bright yellow like a cat’s. She had a slim figure save for her broad hips and exaggerated breasts, designed with luring in hapless young men, and her hair was a shoulder-length curtain of jet-black interrupted by a pair of long curving horns that rose from her forehead.
Today she was dressed like a pirate, or perhaps more accurately like the picture one would find on a “Slutty Pirate Costume” in a less-than-reputable costume shop three days after Halloween, she was showing off a tremendous amount of smooth grey skin, particularly below her neckline, and with a skirt so short as to almost be redundant. So long as he indulged her quirks, he reminded himself, she was one of the most loyal daemons he had ever meant. He had the contingent command and binding spells in place, of course, but he preferred a servant that didn’t try to twist his every word and order back on him. At least she had stopped trying to seduce him. It wasn’t terribly uncommon for fledgling and hormonal mages to summon dameons like Suty as pleasure companions, but Albion had summoned her for her loyalty and base cunning, and he had a policy never to sleep below his station. Suty, of course, was free to test her wiles on others so long as it didn’t distract from her duties or reflect poorly on him. Catarina was her favored target these days.
“Very good, Suty.” Albion said “We should be arriving shortly, yes?”
“We are right on course and right on schedule, captain.” She grinned. Albion heard the sound of sails straining, and watched as Suty pivoted in place, eyes homing in on the minor spirit that had failed to properly give the sheet slack where it was needed. She pointed her hand as if holding a gun and snapped her fingers. The spirit, a mere ball of light and aether the size of a football, erupted into a puff of flame before disintegrating. Albion watched the light bounce off Suty’s face, twisted into a demonic expression of malice and contempt before shifting as smoothly as silk into her normal wide-eyed and chipper visage.
“Apologies, captain.” She said brightly.
“See that the next one does his duty properly.” Albion said.
“Aye aye, captain!” Suty saluted smartly with a distinct and deliberate bounce.
Albion smiled as she returned to her duties. He liked Suty.
It was another hour before their destination came into view. They had been sailing for nine hours now, but Albion had been prepared for several days. It was tricky work, after all, to navigate to an island that wasn’t supposed to exist.
As soon as the green dot on the horizon came into view, mist began to pour in around them. The spirits began to glow, acting as running lights to mark their passage as the fog grew thick around them. Albion kept his eyes on the horizon, to where the island, still visible, was growing steadily larger. Any satellite photo or passing modern vessel would have told him that there was nothing there, but there was an island to be found. It was an island that was only marked on a more ancient kind of map.
There was a magic in the mist, he could feel it already as it settled in around them. It’s what made the spirits glow and brought a nervous expression to Suty’s face. Albion, however, was calm. He had examined the field Angel had made over Italy, and while he could reproduce nothing of its caliber, he had managed to reverse engineer some of its properties and combine them with his own potent magic. It’s what kept their small vessel beyond the notice of sea monsters, and now what protected them from the mist. Albion could only guess at its function, most likely it was an amnesiac of some variety, one that would compel him to pass beyond the island and forget what he had seen. Albion, however, was not to be dissuaded; he had business on that island.
As they approached the rocky shore, the island growing larger in their view, Albion could see a light appear at the end of a small dock.
“It seems we’re expected, Captain.” Suty said, and Albion could still hear the slight tremor in her voice. She was not designed for battle, and did not enjoy the prospect of facing a more powerful mage.
“The Master of this island takes many callers.” Albion said “But I imagine they rarely leave.”
Suty gulped. Albion, however, had rarely been so excited. This would be the first real test for him in a long time.
As he stepped onto the docks, the minor spirits attending to tying off the boat, Suty hopped ashore with him.
“So try to show some decorum, for God’s sake.” Albion said. He wanted to make a good impression, after all.
“Oh right, of course, Master.” Suty curtsied as her pirate costume transfigured into her usual attire, the trim suit and skirt of a secretary. Of course, this being Suty, it was not the kind of secretary one would find in a legitimate office, but it was still something.
As they stepped towards the shores, they saw the trees rise high ahead of them, the thick forest broken only by a small winding path into the island’s dark interior. From within the forest came a multitude of low groaning roars, the indignant cries of a hundred wild beasts. Suty shuddered and hid slightly behind Albion.
“What was that, Master?”
Albion replied as if quoting verse.
“The roars of lions that refuse the chain,
The grunts of bristled boars, and groans of bears,
And herds of howling wolves that stun the sailors’ ears.”
“You should read more, Suty.” Albion shrugged, before removing what appeared to be a tiny hand-sized obelisk from his jacket pocket. The surface was shining black, like obsidian, and covered in minutely carved sigils of power. Albion took a breath, feeling some of his power flow into it, and around him a perfect sphere of invisible energy began to form. It was a spell of his own design, and a particularly potent one. If he was right about this island, then even with nothing but a permeable field of invisible air around them they could not be touched. He noted, with pleasure, that the fog had been pushed to the edges of the sphere.
Without a moment of hesitation he set off into the thick wood, Suty hurrying in his footsteps, afraid of being left outside the field’s protection.
“Will this really protect us, Master?” She asked nervously, almost stepping on his heels.
“Try casting a spell in here, Suty.” Albion said. He saw out of the corner of his eye as Suty snapped her fingers repeatedly, clicking them but producing not spark like a bum lighter.
“Precisely” Albion said “The rare case when the best offense is good defense. No mage can touch you when they can’t even form a spell.”
“But…” Suty began, trying to work things out in her head “Master…I’m magic…how am I in here?”
“Oh, I put wards on you for this.” Albion shrugged “I can’t very well evaporate my servants whenever I want some protection, can I?”
“I suppose not…”
They walked on, the thick canopy of the treetops casting them in darkness, their path unlit save for the faint glow of the unnatural mist to guide their way. On the edges of his vision, skirting the trees, Albion could see shapes moving in the darkness. Slouched predatory shadows watching them from a safe distance.
“Master…” Suty whined nervously “Lion claws aren’t magic…”
“Oh but they are” Albion said “On this island at least. Now do be quiet, Suty, you’re my foremost display of power, a first impression if you will, I won’t have you a gibbering wreck by the time we arrive or it will be the iron commands, understood?”
“Yes Master!” Albion watched her back stiffen as she took his words to heart. Disciplining a daemon like Suty was tricky work. A fool would have made her feel pain when disobeying without realizing that most of the time Suty liked it. He had found other solutions.
Just as he had hoped their path was unblocked and they proceeded unmolested through the forest. As they moved closer to the center of the island, Albion could feel more and more magic permeating the place. He could sense it in the mist, the air, and the trees as it flowed around them. It was without a doubt the most potent focus of magical energy he had ever felt, and that was a sign of one of two things:
Either this place was at a nexus of several potent ley lines (he had checked, it was not). Or it was inhabited by someone extraordinarily powerful and also very, very old.
Near the center of the island the forest cleared, the trees vanishing to reveal an open field in which an opulent mansion had been built, a large villa of white stone and red tiled roof, covered in lush ornamental ivy. It would have been the envy of rich millionaires everywhere, a perfect piece of architecture in almost total seclusion, the fields of verdant grass around it filled with all manner of tame animals.
Albion walked without hesitation towards the large oaken front doors, his gaze unmoving even as many of the animals turned to look at him with a distinctly intelligent awareness, Suty hurrying to never fall too far behind. He stopped just short of the doors, hands folded behind his back after making a few last-minute adjustments to his collar. Albion did always take some pride in his appearance.
He stood in silence for several minutes before the doors opened, swinging outward on silent hinges as they were pushed open by an unseen force, revealing the master of the island in the doorway.
She was, without question, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was something Albion could not help but notice. If a woman was attractive then normally Albion would simply make a cold note of it along with all other characteristics and file it away in his mind. When someone’s appearance claimed his complete attention like this then Albion knew there was more than biology at work. Rather than worry him, it only made him surer he had found what he was looking for.
She was taller than he was by several inches, her head a lush bounty of silver hair despite her young age. She was dressed in a long blue-green dress that flowed like water around her legs but clung to her figure above. Her eyes were brilliant and unnatural gold, and in her hand she clutched a long wooden rod, carved into the shape of an animal’s clawed paw.
She stood waiting in the doorway, silent and expectant. Slowly, moving with steady grace, Albion bowed to one knee, taking her free hand gently in his and lightly kissing it before looking up to meet her gaze.
“Lady Circe” He said “It is an honor to make your acquaintance.”
The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9551?chapter=15&sl=802