Being raised an elf in a tribe full of humans was hard enough for the young boy, Mikel. His paternal grandfather had raised him until he was five, when his grandfather died. He was then sent to his maternal grandparents, but they did not want a reminder of all that they had lost by his birth. They relegated him to the status of a servant, telling him that only in hard work could he hope to live up to the sacrifice that his mother had made for him, though there was little that he could do. He had been born an albino and avoided the sun as much as he could
He was the only elf in the small tribe of Zuni that lived along the border with Aztlan, they seemed to all suspect him of something. When he grew old enough, they made him walk into the desert on the path of the Shaman. When his vision quest failed to bring him into the power of a totem, he was disliked even more. The burning his skin took was harsh, but the bitterness in his heart was not because of the loss of the powers of the shaman, but because of the sneer of disdain that he saw in the eyes of those that should have loved him.
The age of 18 was a troubling time for him, the elves of the Pacific Northwest had formed the nation of Tir Tairngire and they called to all the meta-humans of the world to come to them. The pull of the elven nation did not hold Mikel though, he saw the lies that they would tell. Walking to the hill that he rested on as a child, he saw that he was still alone, the others wanting him to go more than he ever did.
He knew that he was no shaman, but at the same time he had started to show the powers of a mage. He watched the others, those that had been chosen by a totem, practice their spells of destruction. He learned from them, watched them summon the energy to destroy the small targets. He could not summon the spirits of the land, but he could cast the spells that were the bread and butter of the mages.
Each time he tried to raise the subject, the teachers of the small school would treat him with total disdain. His grandparents had arranged for separate lodging, for which he paid with the help of a small job. Though he was the only one of his age to have a job, the Pueblo Corporate Council was not pleased with the elven situation. It was commonly known that elves would not be considered for government jobs.
Eventually he saw the truth; he could not earn the loyalty of the others. He began searching for an answer to his dilemma, an answer to his doubts about his future. It was then that he began to sense the truth of his situation, he did not belong in the tribes, anymore than he belonged to the elven nation. The realization of it seemed to send him into a frenzy of energy, he understood that there was something for him, but it was not in the small town.
Fire danced along the fingertips of the gloved hand, a simple illusion, barely taxing the limits of the spell. The ability to focus on the illusion was a gift that he had learned after long hours of meditation on his hill. Since leaving the small town, he had learned that the hill was, in fact, a small cairn. Years ago it had been built to house and honor the dead Zuni of an older Ghost Dance.
Mikel Walks-with-Death was the new name he had chosen. Borrowing a tradition from the elves of Tir Tairngire, he had renamed himself in a self styled Rite of Pronouncement. Soon after he had left the small town, he had sold his share in the Council, along with his citizenship, for money to finance the walk he had taken.
Soon after he crossed into the nation of the California Free State, he began to feel a pull, the pull leading into the desert. His training in survival had encompassed desert training, but he still sought a small town to buy water. The price was even higher than he would have thought, but he had little choice in the matter.
The small shelter that his long coat afforded him was not enough to keep the blistering of his skin. His allergy to the sun was almost more than he could bear, but he felt the same draw from across the length of the horizon. Traveling only by night, resting under whatever shelter he could find during the day, he made excellent time towards the unknown.
When he found a small chasm, the brick houses showed him the shelter that had once been that of the Anasazi. His historical research had told him about the ancient ancestors of his people, but he still felt the draw from across the desert. Walking through the ancient city, he felt the strange draw of the extinct people. He knew they were connected somehow with who he was.
As time passed, Mikel began to feel his mind passing from him. In the day, while he slept, he dreamt of elves forging weapons to fight creatures of darkness. The battles raged in his mind, as he watched the mages fight alongside the "mundane" members. Physical adepts fanned out around an ancient being that he could not see.
When he awoke, Mikel saw a crater on the horizon and an old man walking towards the crater. Following the old man, he felt the night grow cold around him, but he also felt the sun blasted sand underneath his boots. The blisters on his skin seemed to attract the cold wind to him, his hair blowing up and across his face.
In the split second it took to bind his hair, he lost sight of the old man over the rim of the crater. Running forward, he felt the world grow still, though he also felt the wind whip lash his body. Topping the crater he saw the vast emptiness that stretched beneath him. The clouds shifted in front of the moon, blocking the entire skyline. Darkness rolled across him, the old man nowhere in sight.
A motion to the side caught his attention, as he spun to see his stalker he lost his footing. The crater suddenly seemed steeper than before, the hard baked ground more crumbling. Sliding to the floor of the crater seemed to take no time at all, but an eternity also seemed to pass. A rock caught his head at the right angle to strike his consciousness from him.
Fire danced across his hands, but this time it was real. His hands burned where the gloves gave way. He threw the gloves from his hands, plunging up to his elbows into a small pond. The luscious vegetation around him providing some cover from the creature that was fighting them. Reptile and insect combined into a thing from his worst nightmare.
The other elves were holding the creature of, but he was sure they could not do so forever. They ran to the edge of the entrance to the garden, hoping to hold It off as long as they could. The women had tried to gather some vegetables, but they were attacked. Warriors rushed to attack with the aid of the wizards. He felt himself running with them, but he did not know why.
Rage overtook him at last, he should not be running, this was his world, not the creature’s. He stopped, turning to face the evil being that had tried to destroy him. As the energy burned within his blood, he felt a call from his side. He saw an ancient man looking into his eyes, the reflection of himself looking large in the eyes of the old man.
He saw that his skin was not the blistered albino that it had been he was the same red color as the others of his family. He was still an elf though, but different than he had been. He realized that he was not seeing a reflection of his self, but a reflection of what he had been, long ago. The elf that he was reached for something from the old man, a mask like the Kachina’s wear.
The mask seemed to be made of the metal Orichalcum, but it was silvered, reflecting the light of the fire from behind him. A voice whispered, "Embrace the trickster, he will save you!" then all was silence. Mikel felt the mask in his arms, though he had not meant to take it. He saw the energy radiating from the mask, heard the creature getting closer.
The choice meant nothing to Mikel, he knew that it had been made centuries earlier. The mask was lifted towards his face, with his own hands. The green bonds of energy circling his mind like the tentacles of a squid. Hooks seemed to rend his mind asunder, and he watched himself separate from the elf that had been.
Mikel felt himself ripped from the elf that had been he moments and centuries ago, the pain seeming to drive to his soul. The other elf looked back to wear the old man had been, but the man was gone. The elf wore the Mask of the Trickster now, one side swept up in a laugh, the other side descending into a rage filled scream. He turned to face the creature, a laugh escaping him. The creature stopped, looking with a strange quizzical expression.
The laugh turned to a scream as the energy raging through the blood spilled over into the physical world. The halls of the underground shelter were suddenly consumed in the flames of nuclear fire. Mikel felt the pain as his skin was peeled from his muscles, then the pain ended with the moon rising above him. He looked into the face of the man in the moon, wondering what had happened to the blisters covering his body.
Though he still lay in the middle of the crater, it seemed as if he had suddenly found himself in a different world. Rising to his feet he felt the bump on the back of his head that signaled the end of his fall. Looking around, he saw the old man sitting on a tree stump. The anomaly of a tree stump in the middle of the Mojave did not pass unnoticed, but Mikel recognized the eyes of the old man from his dream.
In actuality he felt the power of the vision, the old man held forth a small book titled Walking to the Light. When he reached to take the book, the old man spoke;
"Many centuries ago, a Follower took the power that was offered, but he had not been trained in its use. He used it too quickly and it overwhelmed him. The Mask of the Trickster was unmade in the encounter with the Thing That Should Not Be. The mask needs to be remade, but those who know how to make the things of this world cannot forge it.
"In your heart you have the knowledge of the nature of the thing, it was a part of that person that was you. His death killed the Thing, but there are others. Whether they come now or later, they will come. There are other kinds of Enemies here also, though they will soon be discovered. The Trickster will enlighten the world, but first the world must be saved.
"You must seek the material deep in your heart, it knows the way. You must learn the Nature of things, for in your time you must learn to save the world. Power is a wonderful thing, but you must wield it with care. Take your allies where you find them, for only with help will you learn this world. The ways are your future, learn them all.
The world suddenly lurched, as Mikel felt the sky flip to the ground. The old man was not there anymore, but the tree stump still was. He saw the image locked in his mind, the Mask of the Trickster, as it formed the laugh and scream. Power was coursing through the world and he felt he power to shape it, though he was no alchemist. He knew what he had to do, no matter how long it took him. The knife he had carried with him for most of his life came out of its sheath, and he began to hack at the tree stump.
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