Short story: “Ending the Masquerade”

🇫🇷 Cette histoire n’est disponible qu’en anglais.
This story is only available in English

“Hello Maury. You shouldn’t be in here. Please turn back.”

Maury jumped when he saw the man appear out of thin air, and cringed when he heard his voice. It was calm, but there was an edge to it.

“Hello milord,” he managed to say. “It’s… quite a surprise, to meet you here.”

“An unpleasant one, I’d wager. But that’s alright. Now, Maury, turn back.”

“I… No.” The shock had passed, and Maury had regained his composure. “I won’t. I have a purpose here, lord Arludard.”

“And what is that purpose supposed to be?” Disappointment seeped in Arludard’s voice. “What are you doing here Maury? You were the chosen one! You defeated the Dark Masters! You brought peace to the world! Yet now I find you here, dressed like a Nogick, entering this hidden and forbidden place?”

“I’m here, lord Arludard, because the world needs changing, and because I—”

Gelobag!” yelled suddenly Arludard, pointing in an instant his magic wand at Maury. A red bolt flared from it and hurled towards the young man. But he was ready.


A purple flower appeared in front of Maury and the red bolt bounced on it and dispersed into small sparks. Still, he felt the impact with all his body, and his wand was almost teared off his hand. His face contorted with anger.

“Really? Really, lord Arludard? You pretend you want to talk, and then you attack me by surprise?!”

Still, behind his anger, in his heart, there was some admiration, and the remains of what had even been adoration, for this man. The diversion tactics. The will to do what needs to be done. When he looked at his eyes, his eyes which seemed to see his very soul, he almost felt like he was still the boy he had once been, gazing up with wonder at the wise man who told him all about the world of Magick.

Good thing I was ready. Damn. I can’t underestimate him. He really is the best wizard in the world!

Arludard’s raised his arms, showing them to Maury.

“Right. This was a mistake. Sorry Maury. I apologize, okay? Calm down. Talk to me.”

The two men were a picture of opposites.

On one side, the old wizard was dressed in perfect wizard attire. Blue robe, chest insignia, and of course, his signature long gray handlebar mustache, which was always impeccably brushed… but was visibly being affected by the strong winds coming from the center of the room, and was already losing its perfect form. The winds had also caused his traditional wizard hat to fly away when he had attacked, revealing a bald spot that Maury had never known about. He usually wore glasses, but not today. Never when he’s serious, thought Maury.

On the other side, while Maury held his magic wand firmly in his hand, it was the only thing that indicated that he was not a regular thirty years old man. He was dressed in a black business suit that opened on a white T-shirt on which the words “I am made of magic!” were written in stylish cursive, multicolored letters, surrounded by hearts and stars. Maury was very peculiar about his fashion sense, and he had bought that T-shirt specially for this day. It was, he believed, of appropriate irony for the task at hand.

Today, Maury was ending The Masquerade.

He had entered the hidden tunnels under the Eiffel Tower a few hours before dawn, and had patiently, slowly progressed through them, taking out the guards in his path, being extremely careful not to trigger any traps or alarms.

He had not made any mistakes. No warnings had been raised. No one should have noticed.

And yet, his old teacher, the one who had taught him his most important lessons, lord Arludard, had still been waiting for him when he had emerged out of the tunnels in the wide room where the Artefact was being kept.

Of course. The wizard was known to be paranoid, not trusting anyone, not even the Guardians of Magick. It was this paranoia and preparation that had allowed him to save Maury’s life when he was a child, then to hide his whereabouts for the ten years it took to the boy to awaken to his powers. He had had his back all the way to adulthood, helping Maury sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, scheming and making arrangements in the shadows, so that Maury would be able to fulfill the prophecy and rid the world of the Dark Masters, an evil that had threatened to swallow the whole world.

And when all of that had come to pass, the wizard had finally let go of his grasp over the life of his protĂ©gĂ©. He had come to see Maury, said thank you, said sorry, and he had left vacant his position of mentor, surrogate father and friend, disappearing on what he had said would be a “well-deserved retirement trip”. It had been ten years since then, and Maury, finally free of his duties, of his destiny, had been able to live fully, freely, happily ever after.

Except in reality, “happily ever after” only means you get to witness what happens next, and reflect over what has happened before.

“Maury,” said Arludard, in a pleading voice. “Maury please. It’s not too late. Stop this lunacy, and come home with me. Look Maury, I’m dropping my wand, alright?”

He did as he was saying. Maury did not lower his.

“Don’t take me for a fool, lord Arludard. I know perfectly well that you’re able to cast spells without a wand, or without even having to say the words.”

“I won’t. I won’t, alright Maury? I promise. I promise on all that we have shared all these years, on everything we have accomplished together. But please. Please! Explain this to me. I believe I have a right to know.”

His voice was losing its pleading tone, and returning to the more paternal, wise tone of voice Maury had always known. He was going back to his teacher self.

“The simple fact that you’re standing in this room is pure heresy. What are you doing here, Maury? Do you even really know what this is?”

Without turning his back to Maury, he pointed to the bright pyramid-shaped object behind him. It was right in the center in the room, floating in the air, probably close to a meter in height and width, held in place by five gigantic beams of light, four of which came from the ground and one which reached directly from the center of the pyramid to the ceiling of the underground tunnel. It was, Maury knew, pointing right at the middle of the Eiffel Tower. The aura he could feel coming from it was unbelievably powerful, and was what was generating the winds that blew in the room.

“I do. Oh, yes, I do,” said Maury, looking directly into the piercing eyes of his old mentor. “It is the Pyramid of Unknowledge. The Unbeliever. The Status Quo Preserver. Or more simply said… It is the device that keeps the world, the Non-Magick world from noticing the hundred of stupid mistakes made by wizards every single day, in this age of knowledge, of cameras and video recordings.”

“Then you must understand, Maury, what will happen if you take it, or misuse it. The world will be plunged into a chaos so deep wizards won’t be able to control it. No amount of spells will be enough to fix the damage if a Nogick notices someone using Magick. There will be more and more witnesses, who will first dismiss it, then start catching on, and from there it’ll be too late. It’ll spiral out of control.”

He stopped to take a deep breath.

“Magick will become known to the Nogick world, Maury!”

His brow was furrowed, his eyes sorrowful. He was every single bit the teacher, the advisor, the friend and the father figure Maury had always known and loved, and some part of him wanted to run into his arms and cry and apologize for his foolishness.

But the other part? It was getting angrier.

“So what?” he said, flatly.

Arludard’s eyes widened, and his mouth slightly opened, betraying his surprise.

“So what? So what? Maury, don’t you remember anything that was taught to you in History class? The Nogicks are—”

“The Non-Magick people are also people!” suddenly exploded Maury.

Arludard appeared to recoil out of surprise and bewilderment.

“W… Well I know that Maury!”

But his tone was hesitant. He seemed to understand, instinctively, that he and Maury were not talking about the same thing.

“Do you? Do you?

Feeling that his voice was starting to become a shriek, Maury let out a sigh, breathed, then spoke more softly. “My mother is dead, Lord Arludard.”

Arludard looked at Maury in complete shock and confusion.

“Well… Er… I mean, yes, Maury, I know! She sacrificed herself to save you from one of the Dark Masters, all these years ago, and—”

“I’m talking about my mom. My adoptive mother”

“I… Oh, you mean your Nog… I mean, yes, your adoptive mother, I…” Arludard was visibly at a loss for words. “Rose was her name, right? I… I see… I’m er… So sorry for your loss, Maury…”

“We had reconnected, you know? I mean, she wasn’t exactly the greatest of mothers for me when I was a child, but she did her best. She apologized to me multiple times when I came home after you left. She had a lot on her plate, dealing with the murder of her own sister, and having to raise an adoptive son who turned out to be The Prophesied Chosen One.”

He smirked.

“But then she died. Two years ago, on an hospital bed, destroyed from the inside by cancer. Beautiful years of life, then an hospital bed, and poof, gone away.”

His eyes had grown vacant. Now, he refocused them again on the old wizard.

Nogicks… Non-Magick people are people, lord Arludard. Just like you and me.”

“I’m… Not quite sure I get what you want to say Maury. You know I’ve always been a fervent defender of the Non-Magick people, and—”

“But that’s just it!” interrupted Maury, almost shouting again. “That’s what you don’t understand! They are people! They are not pets! They are not small animals in need of protection! Nor are they fragile children you need to take care of! They! Are! People! Just because they did not get any powers at birth does not mean they should be treated as an inferior species!”

“But I do not — No, we do not—”

“Don’t you? The Magick World Government has a whole branch dedicated to study Non-Magick people, what they do and what they build! They routinely interfere in the affairs of every single government on Earth! They — No, we, as Magick people, are living in a society in which we look down at the rest of humanity from an ivory tower, like we do not belong with them!”

Maury looked down, and when he next spoke, the words came out soft again.

“Except we do belong with them.”

He raised his voice, and his face, again.

“How old are you, lord Arludard?”

Again, the old wizard, his oh-so-wise teacher, looked at him with only a confused face.

“I’m… well… I’m going to celebrate soon, if everything goes according to plan, my two hundred and thirty sixth birthday this next—”

“Yet, my mom died at sixty.”

The horror Maury read on Arludard’s face made him want to burst in tears and in laughter at the same time.

“Bu… But Maury! You know as well as I do that we do not have the resources, the powers, to extend the life of every Non-Magick person!”

“You’re right! We don’t. But you know how we may figure it out? If we worked with them! If we stopped treating them like some kind of second-rate humanity! If we combined their science with our Magick! For all we know, maybe we could even give them Magick! And for that, we need to stop hiding, stop this damn Masquerade, stop acting like we’re the grand masters of some stupid juvenile cult which can only prosper in the dark, and start growing up! So yes, lord Arludard. To answer again your question. I know exactly what this Artefact is, and I’m here to destroy it. Now, move aside.”

“No, son.”

He had expected that answer. But to hear it punctuated by the word son, just like in the old days, just like after he’d saved the world… It stung.

“I understand your anger, Maury. It is justified. I understand what you are saying, too. I swear to you I do.”

He started to walk towards Maury.

“Stop right there, Arludard, or I’ll attack!”

“You’ll do no such thing. Come with me. We’ll get you an audience with the Guardians of Magick, and the top brass of the Magick Government.”

“Don’t come closer!”

“You’ll explain everything you’ve just told me,” continued the wizard, unfazed. “You’re the Chosen One and your words carry some weight.”

He was now only a few steps away from Maury.

“Stop!” yelled Maury.


Stymio! he cried, making in an instant a complex gesture with his wand.”

Nothing happened.

“Sorry, son. I took the liberty of sealing your powers while we were talking. You kept staring into my eyes, which made it easy… But it was just a precaution, you understand? I mean every word I just said.”

He arrived beside Maury, whose face wore a dark, shocked expression.

“You broke your promise…”

Arludard ignored him and put his hand over Maury’s shoulder.

“We’ll do it, son. I’ll help you. I’ll help you with everything I have. But these things take time, you have to understand. Educating the public. Convincing the top officials. There are a lot of things that need to be done in order to prepare for a safe way to do what you wish to do. We can talk about it. Maybe some of your ideas are applicable as they are. Maybe some of them need some work. But eventually…”

“Eventually, after a few decades, we may have readied the Magick community for a transition to a position that will give them less power and force them to recognize everything they have done up until known, when they could just keep on enjoying being the one percent of the world who gets to pull the strings?”

“It’s not that bad, son.”

“It is. The fact that you can’t recognize it makes you a part of the problem.”

He smiled sadly at his beloved teacher.

“Do you remember, lord Arludard? The prophecy? The golden-eyed boy shall destroy the Dark Masters, and a bright new path he shall open?”

“Of course I do,” answered Arludard, smiling.

“I believe I never fulfilled the second part of that prophecy.” He grinned. “Until now.”

And suddenly, around them, the walls exploded.

Bricks flew around the room, as deafening noises echoed one after the other.

Arludard threw himself backwards and raised his hands, erecting around him an almost transparent shield which repelled the stone that flew towards him.

What have you done?” he cried, enraged.

But his rage faded as quickly as it had come, and his face became a terrible mask of shock and sadness.

“I’ve won, teacher…”

His Magick sealed, Maury hadn’t been able to protect himself from the flying rubble. he was lying on the ground, bleeding, both his legs bent at awful angles.

“But.. Maury… God… How did you?”

“I just told you… Teacher… Combining their science and our Magick… I was not really expecting… you to show up, but I figured everything may… not go as planned… so… I planted explosives, and had them magically linked… to me… I thought I’d be dead if that happened… But you sealed my Magick… So… Boom… And now…”

He pointed a weak finger at the Artefact behind Arludard, who turned around just in time to see that the destruction caused by the explosion had caused the beams of light to disappear. The Artefact came crashing to the ground, shattering as it touched it.

“Now… I’m sorry… This was the backup plan… But I’m afraid the ground above… may not hold… and the Eiffel tower… will probably collapse…”

“Stop talking, Maury. I’ll get you to safety.”

Arludard was waving the wand he had summoned back to him around himself, shielding Maury from the stones which had started coming down from the ceiling.

“I guess I… I’m going to make it… so swear to me, teacher… swear that you’ll do your best… for me…”

“I swear, Maury. I swear, and I swear you’ll be here to see it too, and to answer for what you did, so just hold on son, and I’ll—”

Then, the whole ceiling came crashing down on them.

Months have passed since that incident. Since that fateful day when the Chosen One, the boy who saved the world from the Dark Masters, became the man who ushered a new age for humanity.

His actions, which caused the collapse of the Eiffel Tower and the death of many, were almost universally condemned… But nothing could be done to revert them, and they reshaped the world. As the Non-Magick people learnt of how their lives had been manipulated for so long, Maury Cartor’s face became a symbol of protest many rallied around.

In the end, was it for the best?

Maybe he can answer that himself.

Neither his body, nor the most powerful wizard in the world, were ever found.