Ending the Masquerade

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

Henry 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 guess. But that’s alright. Now, Henry, turn back.”

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

“And what is that?” Disappointment seeped in Humblebee’s voice. “What are you doing here Henry? 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 Humblebee, because the world needs changing, and because I—”

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

Aiyasrho!

A purple flower appeared in front of Henry 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 Humblebee? You pretend you want to talk, and then you attack me by surprise?!”

Still, behind his anger, in his heart, there was admiration, even some kind of deep 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!

Humblebee’s raised his arms, showing them to Henry.

“Right. This was a mistake. Sorry Henry. 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 an old blue robe, and the winds coming from the center of the room were strong enough that his long ash gray beard, like his robe, was flapping around. It had also caused his traditional wizard hat to fly away when he had attacked, revealing a bald spot that Henry had never known about. He usually wore glasses, but not today. Never when he’s serious, thought Henry.

On the other side, Henry held his magic wand firmly in his hand, but it was the only thing that indicated he was not a regular thirty years old man. He was dressed in a casual black suit that opened on a white T-shirt on which the phrase “I am made of magic!” was written in stylish cursive, multicolored letters. Henry 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, Henry 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, knocking 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 Humblebee, 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 Henry’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 Henry sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, scheming and making arrangements in the shadows, so that Henry 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 protégé. He had come to see Henry, 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 Henry, 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.

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

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

“Don’t take me for a fool, lord Humblebee. 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 Henry? 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 Henry 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, Henry? Do you even really know what this is?”

Without turning his back to Henry, 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, Henry 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 Henry, 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, Henry, 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, Henry!”

His brow was furrowed, his eyes sorrowful. He was every single bit the teacher, the advisor, the friend and the father figure Henry 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 of him? It was getting angrier.

“So what?” he said, flatly.

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

“So what? So what? Henry, 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 Henry.

Humblebee appeared to recoil out of surprise and bewilderment.

“W… Well I know that Henry!”

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

“Do you? Do you?” Henry let out a sigh, then spoke more softly. “My mother is dead, Lord Humblebee.”

Humblebee looked at Henry in complete shock and confusion.

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

“I’m talking about my adoptive mother.”

“I… Oh, you mean your Nog… I mean, yes, your adoptive mother, I… Rose was her name, right? I see… I’m er… So sorry for your loss, Henry…”

“We had reconnected, you know? I mean, she wasn’t exactly a good mother to 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 an adoptive son who turned out to be The Prophesied About 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 Humblebee. Just like you and me.”

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

“But that’s just it!” interrupted Henry, almost shouting. “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 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!”

Henry 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 Humblebee?”

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 Henry read on Humblebee’s face made him want to burst in tears and in laughter at the same time.

“Bu… But Henry! 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 Humblebee. 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, Henry. It is justified. I understand what you are saying, too. I swear to you I do.”

He started to walk towards Henry.

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

“You’ll do no such thing, son. Come with me. We’ll get you an audience with the Guardians of Magick, and the top brass of the Magic Government. We’ll explain everything you’ve just told me.”

He was now only a few steps away from Henry.

“Stop!” yelled Henry.

“No.”

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 Henry, whose face wore a dark, shocked expression.

“You broke your promise…”

Humblebee ignored him and put his hand over Henry’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 Humblebee? The prophecy? The golden-eyed boy shall destroy the Dark Masters, and a bright new path he shall open?”

“Of course I do,” answered Humblebee as he smiled warmly.

“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.

Humblebee 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, Henry 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.. Henry… 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 Humblebee, 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, Henry. I’ll get you to safety.”

Humblebee was waving the wand he had summoned back to him around himself, shielding Henry from the rubble which had started coming down from the ceiling.

“I don’t know… if I’m going to make it… so promise me, teacher… that you’ll do you best… for me…”

“I swear, Henry. 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 part of their lives had been manipulated for so long, Henry 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 body of the most powerful wizard in the world, were found.