When the light returned to his eyes, he found himself in the miner’s tavern in the Undercity that he had visited with master Pelvacto several times. The door behind him was replaced with the same black maw that he had fallen into.
“This is called a rift, a hole in reality itself. It is how one enters or leaves the void,” Shadow’s voice echoed around him.
He looked around, but the tavern was mostly empty. Aros, one of Tharo’s friends, was the only customer. Shadow was nowhere to be seen.
“It’s time for you to go home. Step away from the rift, so I can close it safely,” the Magister’s disembodied voice said.
“I have one more question,” Tharash said as he took a step back. “Why are you telling me all this? Why teach me the forbidden arts in secret?”
“You’re different from the rest of the students. You think differently. You’ll make a much better warlock than wizard.”
“So you said. But why train me as a warlock at all? What’s in it for you?”
Shadow chuckled. “This is why. You ask the right questions. Not just here, but in your classes as well. You’ve always deviated from the path the magisters have set out for you. This really isn’t so different from what you’ve been doing all your life. As for what’s in it for me; being Magister of Shadow is the most difficult job in the city and finding a successor is the most difficult part of it.”
Tharash’s eyes grew wide. “You want me to become the next Magister of Shadow?”
“The Magister of Shadow exists, yet not. He has no name, identity or life, he is never born, nor does he die. Yet he is alive and grows old. For the succession of the role, the apprentice has to cease existing, not merely in the present and the future, but also in the past. Whether you can become the next in line depends on whether you can do this; to create a reality where Tharash Kaern has never existed, without destroying Tharash Kaern,” the echoes faded away and the rift shrank until it disappeared all together, revealing the tavern’s door behind it.
He turned around and Aros waved at him as if he’d only just entered. He gave the miner a brief wave back as he headed over to the counter, where Ghars poured him a Flatmead. “You look like you could use something stronger, but you know Tharo’s rules,” he said.
Tharash nodded absentmindedly and emptied the cup. “I should go home,” he said and left the tavern. He opened the door slowly. It simply opened up to the dimly lit streets of the Undercity and nothing happened as he carefully stepped outside and the typical Undercity scent of sweat and oil entered his nose.
He knew the way home from here and wandered the streets in the growing darkness as miners returned home with dark and weary faces. He greeted a few familiar faces as he made his way to the foot of his tower home. Up on the third level, there would still be light at this hour.
He made his way to the first level, as there were no entrances to any of Nevarus’s towers in the Undercity. Up in the spires, this was considered merely the basement. A plain wooden door offered access to a long, winding staircase. Unlike the other towers, here the first level was vacant. Even the usual windows to illuminate the stairs were absent until the second level.
As he climbed up in the dark, he passed by an inward going door. Like the door to Tharo’s laboratory, this one featured neither handle nor lock, but the same intricate pattern of swirling circles emitted a faint glow. Yet Tharash knew he was only halfway up the first level, while the lab occupied the second level of the tower.
He mimicked the motions that Tharo made to open the laboratory’s door, to no effect. A few variations he tried yielded just as much result. He concluded that this one required a different key, but wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
Closing his eyes, he envisioned all of Nevarus: every tower, skyway and staircase, every streetcorner, all the shops and homes, every little detail he could pull from memory until there was no doubt that this was Nevarus. Once he was finished with all the exterior details, he turned to the inside of the tower. His home, the laboratory and even the neighbours upstairs he envisioned in detail. He made but the tiniest alteration; The mysterious door on the first level was open. As he looked in, he saw nothing but darkness. His first instinct was to attribute it to the lack of windows, but the room was darker than the staircase. He took a step towards the room and looked in. the faint light that penetrated the staircase from outside ended abruptly at the door. Beyond it, it was as if there wasn’t even a floor. “It’s a rift,” he whispered to himself.
He opened his eyes wide and found himself as if he had never taken that step. The door slammed shut with such force that it shook the floor.
“Tharo has a rift below his lab,” the words sissed out of his mouth as a much more terrifying thought developed in his mind; even if it had been but an instant, he had opened it.