Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The elementalist had ruled the land for decades now, keeping his subordinates clenched tightly in his iron fist. He was the greatest, and last, sorcerer in the land, he had made sure of that. As a master of the elements, fear was his tactic, magic his weapon. On some days he would be benevolent, and bless his skinny farmers with a flow of rich waters to nourish the land. On others, he would send all-destroying hurricanes, fill the fields with rocks that attacked anyone who tried to remove them or simply send an inferno that incinerated entire harvests. Yes, his people lived in fear.
But not only fear. The dawn of magic had brought many curses, but also many gifts. Bakers were given everlasting fires, that heated their ovens indefinitely. Sewing mistresses used needles which they only had to instruct, nothing else. And adventurers throughout the land quested for magical weapons and armor that enhanced their abilities far beyond their original talents. It was this group that the elementalist had always kept in his sight, and when rumors of an amassing army had reached his ears, he had devised of a plan that would prove irresistible to any warrior, archer or rogue plotting against him. Mostly, it would divide them.
The arena was built swiftly, and word was spread throughout the land. One day each year, the elementalist would accept all challenges to his rule, and enter into one-on-one combat with any adversary who dared face him. The plan had worked like a charm, and adventurers from all reaches of the land had swarmed towards the capital, where on the day of destiny the first knight had entered onto the black stone slabs of the arena. His enchanted shield had easily deflected the sorcerer’s fireballs, his magically lined clothing had withstood the icy streams that were sent his way and his heavily reinforced armor had simply deflected the heavy pebbles that attempted to knock him off his feet. As he steadily closed in on his opponent, the crowd had gasped in exasperation, sure of the impending victory and resulting liberation. But then the elementalist had broken into a mocking laughter. “I’ve merely been toying with you, knight!” he had spat, and then, in a series of dazzling gestures, had encased the knight’s feet in ice, undone his armor with sharp stone needles and, with a heat that had scorched everyone’s eyebrows, reduced the poor man to ashes. So the first, and arguably the greatest, of that first day’s challengers had fallen. And so would the rest.
Years passed, and the elementalist grew ever more in power as his list of adversaries grew ever thinner. Each year fewer brave souls would come, and the ones who did were easily dealt with. Then, one arena day came to pass on which both the elementalist and the crowd faced no one. The sun rose to its peak, and no one had come. As it started its slow descent, casting long shadows, the evil ruler commanded burly men from the crowd to face him in battle, but even incinerating, freezing or skewering these victims did not change the fact that he had grown bored. He was about to move on to the older boys when a heavy creaking broke the muffled sobs and hysterical cries of their mothers. It came from the heavy doors that challengers were expected to enter through, and moments later a young man entered the arena. The elementalist examined him, and could not believe his eyes. The young man, a boy to him, looked as ordinary as any other peasant. He wore a plain, dirty white shirt. His light brown trousers were tucked into a set of weather-worn boots. His hair was a messy black, topping fierce blue eyes that reflected the crude sword he held in his hand.
“Are you lost, boy?” the sorcerer mocked.
“No,” the man replied.
“Then do you wish to die?”
At this, the man stepped forward, raising his blade.
“My only wish is for you to die.”
It was enough for the elementalist. The challenge had been issued. So he conjured up a fireball that he swiftly flung at his opponent. The flames fully engulfed him, but then vanished, leaving the man unscratched. It baffled the sorcerer, who quickly sent a stream of pebbles his way. None hit their target, who had started walking forward.
“How can it be?” the sorcerer mumbled to himself, then pulled himself together and began unleashing more powerful magic. The peasant was first challenged with a physical embodiment of hell on earth, complete with infernal demons, which he shrugged off as if it wasn’t there. Next, he walked through the harshest of winters, not shivering once. This was followed by the fiercest tornadoes the elementalist could muster, but they did not even accomplish further messing up the man’s hair. Then, as a final resort, he threw up walls of the strongest and sharpest crystals around him. It would surely keep out the challenger, but the wall shattered as the man simply walked through it, and plunged his sword in the terrified ruler’s chest.
It was over. It was the end of his rule. The elementalist stumbled to the ground, gasping for breath that would not come anymore. He wanted to ask for the reason of his defeat, but could not manage it anymore. As his world faded into darkness, he faintly heard the man’s voice, offering the explanation he craved so much in his dying moments.
“You embrace magic, you believe in it. I do not. I reject it, and thus am free of any benefit or harm done by it. I do not see it, except for my kinsmen who are murdered by it. I do not feel it, except for the pain to see my people in fear. I do not use it, nor anything that was created by it. Magic does not exist. And thus your tyranny is over.”
It was. The world’s most powerful sorcerer had been overthrown by someone who simply denied his power. By someone without any special abilities.
By an ordinary peasant.