In the year 2090, planet Earth was irrevocably transformed by a series of events which triggered a fundamental change in human society and values. In good faith, those who wielded magical powers decided to divulge their secret to humanity in order to help it solve contemporary issues such as global outbreaks of previously unseen diseases or worsening famine in African countries. The highest elders of the Magic Council were naïve enough to believe that mankind was prepared for this next step forward and would accept the magic that had existed in the world since the dawn of time. For the first year, this seemed to be the case. However, the following year the situation changed, and things began to take a turn for the worse.
World leaders started to accuse one another of misusing magic for political gain and securing wealth only for their nations. In 2092, these lengthy disputes and confrontations caused the beginning of World War III, which had catastrophic consequences. Due to the use of nuclear weapons, which eradicated almost all of humanity, the climate shifted and the planet began to wither. One of the five members of the Magic Council, Ruat, seized the opportunity to gather loyal followers, take over the world using black magic, and enslave tens of thousands of survivors. The remaining members of the council – Shi, Jake, Matt, and Maugrath – decided to take a stand against him. Despite their efforts, Ruat’s power was too great for them to overcome, and the dark mage proceeded to kill all but Shi. She managed to escape at the last second thanks to Maugrath, who sacrificed his life to save her. As he was dying he made the promise to be reborn, return with far greater powers, and put an end to Ruat’s reign once and for all one day. Maugrath intended to hand Shi his medallion for safekeeping, saying that it was important and to give it to his reincarnated self. Unfortunately, Ruat heard his words and was faster – he silenced the man for good and the medallion was destroyed.
The Earth was dying under Ruat’s reign. The new ruler kept building new factories that continuously released toxic gases into the atmosphere. Sea levels fell, most animals and plants went extinct, and the land was swallowed up by a growing desert. In the meantime, Shi gathered several hundred followers (some who wielded magical powers and some who did not). Through shared efforts, the community built the city of Emrei. The city was established in the mountains on the shores of a large lake so that it was well hidden and the people had access to a source of water. Finally, Shi surrounded the city with protective spells to shield it from Ruat and his allies. It was the last bastion of safety and freedom on the planet, one which Ruat was scared to attack.
Like several other mages and Ruat himself, Shi was blessed with the gift of immortality. She often embarked on solitary journeys across the globe doing what she could to help those suffering under Ruat’s reign. She did not dare confront him, though, as he was far too powerful a foe to defeat.
On December 22nd, 2393, as Shi was wandering through the desert that had become of central Europe, she encountered two men at the end of their rope crawling by a rock. Although she herself was exhausted due to the unbearable heat, she managed to drive her staff into the sand, and a spring of ice-cold water emerged from the rock. The travelers immediately stumbled over to the spring, drank of it, washed their faces, and turned to Shi in gratitude. The two seemed familiar to her, but she did not recall where she knew them from. Both thanked her profusely and resumed their journey through the desert.
Shi walked over to the spring to drink as well, but the water stopped flowing and something appeared in the sand in front of her in its stead. At first she thought it must have been rubbish, but upon closer inspection she was shocked to realize it was Maugrath’s lost medallion. She took it in her hand and felt warmth radiating from it. Then, all of a sudden, the medallion began pulling her in one direction like a compass. Without a moment’s hesitation, Shi put it around her neck and let it lead the way.
Approximately 600 miles from the city of Emrei Shi came across a small village called Kanah, no different from the hundred other villages scattered throughout the desert. Since it was getting dark, she decided to stay the night. As she approached the hovels on the outskirts, she heard the cries of an unknown woman. Soon enough she saw her running from tent to tent and begging for help. Her friend, she said, was about to give birth, but the midwife was staying in the neighboring village. Nobody took pity on her. Shi hurried to help. When she entered the tent, she saw that the child was coming already. Fortunately, it was not the first birth she had assisted with, so she knew just what to do. Soon she was holding a small but healthy baby boy in her arms. His mother, on the other hand, looked worse for wear – the pain and bleeding showed no signs of stopping and the woman was getting weaker and weaker. Shi did her best to heal her using her magic but felt that the flow of energy she was trying to establish between herself and the woman was being blocked. She had never encountered something like that and was clueless as to what to do. The child’s mother accepted her end. With her dying breath, she gave the boy a name – Maugrath. In that moment, the medallion on Shi’s neck began to glow gold.
Before Shi was even able to process what had just happened, she heard the locals screaming outside. A woman barged into the tent visibly terrified, warning her that Ruat’s men were approaching the village. Shi asked who the child’s father was only to be told that nobody knows since the mother was already pregnant and alone when she came there. Shi understood that she was Maugrath’s only hope. With the boy in her arms she emerged from the tent, hopped on a rusty scooter and raced away. She knew Ruat would follow her. That’s why she had to reach the border of the city of Emrei where she would be protected by the magical barrier. The city lay far away, though, and when she looked over her shoulder she could see some of Ruat’s lackeys chasing her on hovercrafts. At first the thought of simply stopping and disposing of them occurred to her – she was strong enough for them – but she couldn’t risk putting the child’s life in danger. That was her highest priority. And besides, in the dark she couldn’t be completely sure of just how many men were following her and whether Ruat himself was among them. She raised her staff and a wave of sand appeared behind her back rushing to meet her foes. She hoped it would slow them down for at least a short while. As she raced through the night, the men kept getting ever closer.
At sunrise she finally glimpsed the majestic city towering in the distance. Ruat’s men were almost at her feet when they were suddenly blasted backwards. Shi had made it past the magical barrier of Emrei.
The city of Emrei was built by Shi together with several mages and ordinary survivors of World War III. Shi was well aware the planet was dying so she gathered as many volunteers as she could to help her construct a place where they could live their lives in peace. The city was surrounded by a magical barrier, which protected it from unwelcome visitors and Ruat himself and maintained a suitable climate for plants and animals to thrive in. No one but Shi knew, however, of the source of its power. They said she visited a place long thought to have been wiped from existence. Only those with Shi’s mark tattooed on their arm could pass through the barrier. There were not many such people. Shi was not keen on sharing her mark. With every person who received it, the chances of a citizen getting abducted and used to gain access to Emrei grew. The people did not appreciate being imprisoned within the city walls and complained often, but Shi maintained that it was for the best. She knew the barrier would not withstand Ruat’s advances forever.
Ruat was enraged by his men’s failure. A day earlier he was notified Shi had been spotted in the desert. It was commonplace for him to hear of a woman wandering across the wastes helping the sick and the impoverished. He knew Shi was immortal just like him, but not as powerful. This was different, though. The soldiers reported to him that she had found an object of magical nature in the sand and promptly ran away. Ruat was overcome with fear and commanded the men to follow her. Within hours the scouts told him how Shi had helped deliver the son of a woman who died shortly after giving birth to him. Ruat immediately understood what had transpired and ordered the village destroyed and Shi and the child brought to him alive at any cost. He knew that should he raise the boy, he would gain a powerful ally, the city of Emrei would fall, and he would finally rule over all. How disappointing it was for him to discover that Shi and the child had made it past Emrei’s barrier! Ruat called for every soldier involved in the mission and slaughtered them all mercilessly. For the first time in almost three hundred years he was truly afraid. Despite the distance that separated them, he could feel Shi’s joy at the fact, and her ridicule.
Within the safety of Emrei’s walls Maugrath was growing into a fine young man. Of his origin he knew nothing. Shi was scared to reveal to him the circumstances of his birth and his possible fate. She became his guardian and mentor and strived to impart onto him all her knowledge of the magical arts from a young age. It came as no surprise to her that the boy possessed great talent. Soon enough he was able to master complicated enchantments and with time even command the nature around him.
Maugrath was an inquisitive boy and couldn’t understand why Shi never brought him along on one of her journeys outside the barrier. Whenever he asked her about it, she refused to give him an answer.
Everything changed on the night of July 7th, 2414. Shi was standing guard at a watchtower when she noticed several cars, hovercrafts, and even battleships approaching the city. Even from a distance she could tell the vehicles belonged to citizens retreating to safety. She rushed to meet them and find out the cause of their panic. The news was dire indeed: Ruat had assembled all his troops and was about to lay siege on Emrei. According to Shi’s scouts he finally had enough resources to break through the barrier.
It became clear to Shi that she had to tell the truth because the final battle that would determine the fate of the planet was about to unfold. Maugrath was still young, though, and she had not yet taught him everything she hoped she would, so she was not convinced the boy could face reality. Nevertheless, she called for him and told him of his destiny. She put the medallion that belonged to his former self around his neck. The medallion began to glow and Maugrath’s whole past life flashed before his eyes including his final moments. He realized what he had to do. He hesitated for a moment, then panicked and ran. Shi was alone.
Shi didn’t have time to reflect on Maugrath’s reaction. Her scouts reported that Ruat’s army was to reach the city by sundown. Shi called for every soldier and mage to make preparations to defend the city. However, it was clear to them that they would not be able to deflect the attack. Ruat would not lay siege to Emrei unless he was sure he would conquer it. As night fell over Emrei, the sky turned black and the wind ceased to blow. In its stead the air was filled with an unnatural silence. The time to fight had come.
Countless tanks, interceptors, hovercrafts, horsemen (Ruat’s mages) and foot soldiers with firearms reached the front of the barrier. Ruat stepped out of the front line and spoke to the townspeople in an amplified voice. He demanded their immediate surrender. There was no hope for them either way. If they comply, he will spare their lives and let them serve him. Emrei’s citizens, however, had no intention of surrendering. Instead they continued to strengthen the city’s defenses. Shi kept waiting for Maugrath to return and lend a helping hand, but the man was nowhere to be found.
Ruat’s war machines fired the first round of ammo, which was effortlessly absorbed by the barrier. Shi knew it was just for show. What Ruat wanted was for the townspeople to submit to a false sense of security and let up. Soon the machines stopped firing and instead a hundred hooded figures in black capes stepped forward. They raised their hands and rays of bright red light shot from their fingertips crashing into the barrier. Shi was terrified. Under normal circumstances, the barrier would deflect the magic and knock the foe back. This time there was no reaction from it. Ruat must have invented a new spell. It was working – Shi could feel the dome weakening and the temperature inside rising. Then the mages stepped back and Ruat emerged from their midst. Again he spoke to the Emreians, saying that they had wasted their opportunity and would not be given another. A strong beam of purple light sprang from his hand and shattered the barrier.
The temperature in the city rose within seconds and a strong wind began to blow. Even though Ruat had broken through the barrier, the battle was far from over. The city’s location and strong defenses offered a strategic advantage. Still, enemy tanks continued to blast their way towards Emrei while jets took down Emrei’s cannons. Shi tried to destroy the war machines with her magic but had to conserve her strength. Since Maugrath had vanished, she was the only one who could stand even a fleeting chance against Ruat. She had to seek him out on the battlefield.
It didn’t take long. Ruat found her first. For the first time in over three hundred years Shi faced him again. She remembered the person he used to be, the one who was unanimously voted chairman of the Magic Council. Nobody had a clue he had delved into the dark arts that eventually led him astray shortly before the beginning of World War III. Dark magic allowed him to control the minds of others and drain the life out of all living beings, powers which he used to his advantage. He became a corrupted warlord longing for nothing but limitless power over the whole world.
He offered Shi a fake smile and released a beam of purple light towards her. She retaliated with a silver one. Within seconds she realized she could not win this fight. She could feel Ruat’s magic overwhelming hers. She went weak in the knees and her spell began to fade until finally she fell to the ground, embracing her imminent death.
Suddenly, someone grabbed her wrist and Shi felt a surge of energy run through her. Her silver light glowed brighter than ever. Ruat stumbled. Shi realized that it was Maugrath giving her strength. The two rose and approached Ruat with slow, resolute steps. The man looked terrified. His purple magic grew feeble and he fell to his knees. Maugrath faced him and said: “I always keep my promises.” Then he struck him with a bolt of white lightning. There was no time for Ruat to react and save himself. His lifeless body dropped to the ground. The siege was over.
After the battle, Ruat’s followers scattered. Most of them had no idea what happened as Ruat’s hold over them suddenly broke. It felt like waking up from a long dream. The news of Ruat’s defeat spread rapidly around the world. Soon after, leagues of his former slaves arrived in Emrei to help rebuild the city. This time Shi didn’t have to summon any sort of barrier. Instead she, Maugrath, and the other surviving mages began gradually healing the planet. First they conquered Ruat’s capital and closed down all the factories polluting the air. Afterwards they used magic to bring life back to the sandy plains.
The city grew substantially as more and more people came to settle down there. When the renovations were complete, an enormous celebration was held. While the people were busy enjoying themselves, Maugrath intended to finally have a proper talk with Shi and set the record straight. He searched but could not find her anywhere. There was no trace of her. No one remembered seeing her anywhere throughout the day. Maugrath climbed the stairs atop the tallest tower and glanced wistfully into the desert. In the faraway mist he could recognize a figure fleeing the city – Shi. With a heavy heart, Maugrath realized she was never coming back.