Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonlance or any of the characters herein. If I did, I would have ended the main series with Test of the Twins and let the other authors have their fun.
Raistlin looked around at the stunned faces of the three gods. "Surprise. You are all morons."
The archmage's appearance in their sanctum had clearly shocked the three gods. Solinari and Lunitari. Solinari's eyes had widened, his mouth falling slightly open in shock as if to deny the reality he saw before him. Lunitari's face changed little, but she gripped her chair's armrests as if to keep her body from leaping out of its confines. As for Nuitari, the god of dark magic had gone rigid within his chair. His masked form tense from apprehension... and unless Raistlin missed his mark, perhaps a little bit of fear as well.
The archmage indulged in their shock for a moment longer. Then, his eyes glinting in dark amusement, he spoke to Nuitari.
"I know what you are thinking my former master, and the answer to your question is both yes and no. If I so desired, it would be child's play to replace you here and now. I could assume your mantle, and take the immortality of you and your cousins. And none would be the wiser for it." Raistlin let his words linger in the air before continuing. "But I will not do so. After my battle with your mother I have gained a new perspective and new desires. You may be wrong to fear me, nor may you ever truly come to understand my new goals, but such is your nature."
He turned his attention to the other two. "Now, with the imminent threat of my return to power no longer an issue, it is time to deal with the reason for why I am here."
Solinari was the first to break the shock caused by the former Archmage's appearance. "You are supposed to be gone, wizard. You swore it, with both the gods and magic as your witness, and we saw you departure with your brother."
Nuitari followed closely behind. "If it is not my power then what do you want, Magus? You helped us to find the world again and defeat my mother. We have restored your nephew to life and allowed him to go his own way as well. Haven't you lingered here long enough?"
Lunitari went last, her look of surprise haven given way to one of disapproval. "You disappoint me Raistlin. Of all the mages that have ever been, and perhaps of those that will ever be, you were my favorite. From before you first set foot on the path of wizardry to the day you died, I watched in admiration of all that you achieved. Your presence here is unneeded, and despite your words I cannot help but think that you have yet to truly give up your dreams of power."
Listening to the words of the three immortal beings, Raistlin's sneer came back in full force. "Regardless of your might and prestige, my lords and lady, your knowledge in this matter is sorely lacking. My presence here is because I desired it. My goals are and have always been my own, and thus it remainso. And my earlier statement stands. I stand before you not to regain my place as Master of Past and Present, but to finish paying off my final debt."
Raistlin met their glares of anger with a fury of his own. Even though he respected each of them far and above the rest of their kin, each could still infuriate him with their shortsightedness when it came to mortal matters. "Now be quiet and listen," he quietly hissed, "before the three of you make a mistake that ends up destroying the one thing each of us cares about more than life itself. Magic!"
The faces of both Solinari and Nuitari visibly relaxed Raistlin's words. Remnants of fury still remained, but were overridden by their powerful self-restraint. Here in the void, where feelings and magic were more influential than the physical and mundane, their emotions and expressions were an open book to him. Solinari's expressions were as open as those of his former Archmage, Par-Salian, and Nuitari could hide little from the most power black robed mage to ever live.
He flicked his gaze to the one being who was still openly angry. Lunitari's face still resembled that of a storm-cloud, bearing down on his position with all the fury of a primordial storm. 'Ah, my former goddess, how things change. Once I was your champion, one who wore your colors and fought in your name. You snatched me from Solinar's grasp and lost me to Nuitari, only to have me return to your presence as an equal. How this must hurt.'
A rare moment of empathy filled Raistlin's heart before he quickly snuffed it out. He had paid his debts to the red robed goddess decades ago and sentimentality had never gotten its claws into him. Raistlin gave them smile that failed to reach his cynical, hourglass eyes and turned his back to them. "Now, before we discuss things further, a change of venue is needed in order to reflect the current state of your new reality."
Raistlin raised his arms and began to speak. A string of syllables in the language of magic flowed from his golden lips. Small droplets of red followed each word as the blood in his body sang in tune with the spell. Raistlin moved his right arm forward and Magic itself danced and howled, surging throughout the void itself. The most powerful Archmage to ever live was once more lost in his craft, crafting a spell no mortal had ever cast.
The sky over their heads trembled and began to change. The three moons remained but their positioning was different. They now stood in their rightful place in the heavens, surrounded by the constellations of the gods and goddesses. Below them all, and larger than any one of them, lay the gently rotating blue-green orb of Krynn. The chairs of the gods of magic soon disappeared as though they had never existed.
Sweeping his arms to and fro, the archmage gestured as if he was shaping a block of clay. Three chairs arose from the featureless ground arranged in a semi-circle. A chair of ivory birch for Solinari, a deep deep red chair formed of redwood for Lunitari, and an ebony chair of black evergreen for Nuitari. The three now stood beneath the world of Krynn, as the planet and the heavens orbited above their heads.
Then came the change that made each of them open their eyes wide once again. Each of their chairs began to move position as a new, fourth chair came into existence. Composed of brown walnut, with the symbols of each god placed on its head in a triangle, this new chair formed a diamond with the others.
The three gods each allowed themselves a small nod and a worried glance shared with one another. Raistlin had known that its significance would not be lost upon them. After all, such was his intent.
Brown. The color of a mage who follows none of the gods of magic. The color of the robes he now wore. Combined with the symbols of each of his past allegiances, and a portion of his message to them was now clear. It remained to be seen whether they would understand the rest of it.
As the magic reached a climax, Raistlin swept his arms in a giant circle. Several gleaming stars came to rest close to each of the chairs, shrinking in size and intensity the closer they came. By the time they arrived each gave off a muted glow, casting the light of a spell Raistlin knew all too well. 'Shirak' he whispered in his mind.
The magic slowly fell silent within him as he completed his work. He lowered his arms once the last wisp had left his body, sitting upon the brown chair with a sigh of contentment. Then, with a curt and impatient gesture, Raistlin motioned to the other chairs in front of him. "Now, my former mistress and masters, sit. And listen to what I have to tell you."
One by one the three deities sat before him. The next part of his intention becoming clear to them shortly thereafter. In this meeting of minds there would be no superiors. There would be no mortal coming before the gods and begging them for an intercession. Nor would the divine beings sit in a position of strength as the mortal stood alone. There would nothing but four beings devoted to that which bound them as one. Magic.
Raistlin's eyes flickered between their ageless faces as he began his speech. "In this world, there has always been but two types of magic. The magic of the land, of wild mages; and the magic of the gods, that of the three orders. And while the magic of the gods has waned as the power of wild magic has grown in your absence, its whispers have continued. Its former practitioners have hungered for it to course through their veins once more, to fill them with a joy that wild magic can only palely imitate."
Raistlin heard his own voice grow hungry and twisted as he spoke. "You three are the best of your brethren, but even you cannot understand what those mages who were left behind have felt. How terrible it has been for them to be without the presence of High Magic for these many decades, to only have the memory of its feeling coursing through your body, to scrounge upon the scraps left behind in order to come close to its presence once again. Those who were left behind suffered. And if there is one thing that I truly know in my life, it is how mortals deal with their suffering."
'My Queen, for this sin alone was your death too peaceful by far. For this sin I too would have given up godhood to destroy you.
He paused to take a breath."When a mortal suffers they have two options. They can rise above the pain and change things. Or they can sink beneath its depths and wallow in their suffering. Just look at those who you have been discussing.
Jenna, the one who you would name archmage, lived a life of loneliness as she practiced wild magic and searched for artifacts of power. With the disappearance of High Magic, a void was left in her that could not be filled. Not by companionship, nor commercial success, nor any form of personal influence. All was as dust to her until your return.
Then there is my idiot of an apprentice, Dalamar, who become a solitary recluse. He dabbled in wild magic and practiced necromancy, all while he screamed and raged in his heart to once again wield the powers he had spent years learning to hone. Years he had spent in bitter study, tormented first by his own people and then later by me. Power he had earned was taken from him, and all that remained was a pale substitute worth less than the staff of a newly minted wizard.
Then there is my nephew, Palin, who nearly threw away his entire family. A family that he loved above all else, but was blinded to in the same way that my brother was blinded to his own family by alcohol. The void magic had left in him threatened to destroy that which he held most dear, and it took the return of Takhisis and the loss of his wild magic to make it apparent to him."
Raistlin looked at each of the gods in turn, his words falling from their passionate height to a sibilant whisper. "Do you see a theme beginning to emerge? Have your recent trials shown you the error of your thoughts? If not, then let me make it explicit!"
He continued to speak in a whisper, compelling – no, demanding – their attention. This was too important of a subject for them to get wrong. He would not allow them to destroy magic in their blind ignorance. No, he would awaken them to it, and pour salt in their wounds when he was done. They would remember his words for the rest of eternity, or magic itself might die out.
"Whether it was Takhisis' intention or not, she has created an unbreakable division between your old followers and the new wielders of wild magic. The new wielders saw the depths to which their predecessors sank in order to pursue the past. They saw the toll it took upon those who had once wielded the power of High Magic, and the tragedies that it drove others to commit. And many of these new sorcerers have decided that your magic is not worth it! That the price is too high!"
Raistlin's voice began to rise above his whispered tone as the rage within him threatened to break free of his self-control. All of his life he had known what it felt like to be weak. To be in pain, and to be pitied for it.
The children in his youth had laughed at him for it. His companions had ostracized him for it. His own brother Caramon had tried to wrap Raistlin up in his arms and hide him from the world, only for it to backfire in the most spectacular of fashion.
Throughout it all Raistlin had either silently endured the pain or lashed out. He had been like the three he had named, drowning in his pain and refusing to get better. It had taken the near death of his brother and the woman he held dear, of the revelation that the fulfillment of his life's ambition would lead to his own ruination, and for a vision of an innocent soul dying before him in order for him to rise above the pain.
It was this which set him apart from the gods and other mortals alike. For he had risen from the ranks of mortals to near godhood, and he alone could appreciate the depth of the pain of mortals and the ignorance of the gods. Thus, to his great anger and chagrin, he now found himself reaching out and trying to help someone who did not understand pain and suffering. Not with the intent to cause harm, but for the first time in an attempt to help enlighten the other side.
Bupu would be pleased.
With a jolt that ran through his entire body, Raistlin regained control of his emotions. Thinking of the pudgy, dirt covered gully dwarf who had helped in the past fortified him in a way that nothing else could accomplish. It was for magic, and for people like her, that he both could and would do this right. Raistlin was experienced at causing pain to others and in receiving pain from others in turn. It was time to put the lessons to good use and in a context that the gods could understand.
"It was you three who first taught mortals of High Magic. It was you three who understood that magic must be shared and never hoarded. Yet even so, there must be restrictions... as you learned with your first pupils."
Raistlin leaned forward and pinned Solinari with his gaze. "Do you remember what your first pupils did? They wreaked havoc and devastation upon the world!" He shifted his eyes to Nuitari next. "The first of the Black Robes had to be put down like a mad dog, and the one time the three Founders combined their magic to fight the First Dragon War nearly saw the end of everything! Power ran amok like nothing I ever did, and what makes it even worse was that it was done with your blessing!"
He turned to Lunitari as he sank back into his chair. "You chose wrong, my dear gods and goddess. Each of you chose wrong. You went for power and ability instead of compassion and understanding, a decision which you made out of ignorance for the qualities necessary to wield power of such magnitude. Yet now you stand poised to repeat it. Have you learned nothing?"
The mage's final shout echoed through the void. The three gods before him flinched before the fire in his voice. For they knew – knew – him to be right. They could feel it in their souls that the course of action they had just contemplated was wrong for the world; that is was wrong for magic.
Raistlin's frail fingers had tightened into fists, white from the fury that burned within his chest.
"You stand upon the precipice of declaring war on those who would have been your followers if not for the actions of a dead god. People who have known nothing of our magic other than the effects of those who once wielded it, most of whom shared more things in common with an addict than a healthy mortal being. So tell me, oh lords and lady of magic, what the new wielders of wild magic have done to earn them a death sentence from your hands? What offense have they committed that is so terrible as to threaten the continuation of High Magic as we know it? And why are you unable to find another way?"
Raistlin's scowl could have burned the world. He would not let them repeat the mistakes of the past. His final debt would be paid in full, and they would acknowledge it.
"You three stand at a crossroads. Down one path you destroy those who choose to continue practicing wild magic, while down the other you choose to allow them to live. The first path will be easiest to walk down at first." Memories of Ishtar and the terrible wrath of the gods bubbled to the surface of his mind. "After all, the gods have unleashed destruction upon mortals more than once. It's an old option, and one that will most likely be done again when mortals once again reach for more power than they can grasp. But this path would be the wrong one to take.
The second path would be the hardest at first. It would mean acknowledging that you are no longer in control of everything concerning magic. The three robed orders would need to co-exist with the new wild mages, and you would all need to work together to rebuild the world and wizardry. It would be unlike anything you have ever attempted since you first founded the orders, and involve a certain element of risk."
The three gods shuffled in their chairs at Raistlin's final comment. He narrowed his eyes and gave them a tight smile. "Yes, believe me when I say that I understand your aversion to this risk. I myself am the leading example of what could happen when a mortal gains too much power, and there is no quicker path to such power than the pursuit of magic. But you cannot let this fear hold you back.
Wild magic, while slippery and versatile, does not possess the same dangers of High Sorcery. It is not as powerful, nor as destructive, as High Magic. Nor can it be shared in rituals in quite the same way. Unlike with your own sanctioned practices, you do not need to worry about a wild mage sending a Kender back in time to change the past."
Raistlin placed that barb into his words purposefully, watching as the faces of the gods and goddess tightened once again. Par-Salian's mistake may have been to Raistlin's benefit, but that had been achieved through a series of coincidences that were unlikely to ever be repeated. "High Magic must be controlled and regulated by you. It is too powerful and too dangerous for it to be otherwise. But the same is not true for wild magic, and this is the truth which you will need to accept now rather than later.
Wild magic is here to stay. You may not like it, and I may not like it either, but that is the truth of the matter. You cannot root it out without destroying the very thing you wish to protect. Instead, you must learn to change and grow along with it and its practitioners in this new age."
Silence filled the chamber as Raistlin ended his speech. He could have debated this issue for days with the them. He could have decided to stay behind and help set them upon this new path he had laid out for them. Yet that was not, and never would be, his style. It would remain their choice to accept this new path and to move forward, while it was his choice to go down a road they would not follow.
It was Lunitari who broke the silence. Her eyes glinted in the silver glow of the light cast by Raistlin's creation, magnifying her ethereal beauty. "Tell me, archmagus Raistlin Majere. If you were us, and you stood at the start of a path that you had never gone down before; a path located in dangerous, and possibly deadly, woods, what would you do?"
The answer flew from his lips without a moment's hesitation. "I would gather my companions, and embark on the path to find what might be on the other side."
"And if it came to pass that you fell into danger upon the path?"
"Then I would deal with the danger and learn from the experience should I survive."
Lunitari nodded her head and leaned back in her chair. Nuitari spoke next.
"And what if you or one of your companions should perish on the road? Would you turn back, or would you continue going forward?"
Another simple question, with an even easier answer than the first. "Easy, my god. I would continue walking down the path. My companions would do the same. For once a journey is started, someone must reach the end."
Like his cousin before him, Nuitari also nodded his head and leaned back in his chair. Solinari voiced the trio's final question.
"And what if you knew that the path would claim the lives of both you and your companions before you reached the end? Would you still start the journey, knowing that none would reach the end?"
Here Raistlin halted, for this question touched upon the greatest triumphs and failures of his life. He had gone on adventures with Caramon and Tanis, with Flint and Tasslehoff, and even that insufferable knight Sturm Brightblade. Some journeys they had completed, such as when they traveled to Haven and revealed the cultist as a fraud. Other journeys had cost the lives of their companions, such as the one taken in the War of the Lance. One he had even halted, when Caramon had appeared before Raistlin and shown him the error of his ways.
Still, there could only be one answer to this question that would remain true to his debt and to himself. His eyes glittering, Raistlin smiled as he gave his response. "So long as the journey was worthy, my answer would remain unchanged. I would travel down the same road a thousand times."
Satisfied with his answer, Solinari too sat back in his chair in silence. As he looked between them Raistlin saw that his words had indeed reached them. It remained to be seen whether they would take root and grow with time, but that was not of his concern. He had paid the final debt at last and it was time for him to leave.
Raistlin stood with a sigh, and on whim, cast one final spell. With a quick flick of his wrist and a word of magic, the Staff of Magius filled his right hand. It's solid length and heavy head were as familiar to him as his own heartbeat. Holding it tightly, Raistlin remembered just how far he had come.
He had first received it as a newly minted wizard, fresh from the horrific trial he had endured in the Tower of Wayreth. It had followed him in his attempt to reach godhood, lighting his path and serving as a beacon for his soul. Then it had followed Palin for a time, during the young mage's quests with his brothers and his struggle against Chaos.
Raistlin bid it a fond farewell. He gently leaned it against his chair, and turned back to face the gods and goddess for one last time.
"My time here is come to an end, my lords and ladies. It is my hope that you will follow my advice and heed well my words. The pain of those who are mortal cannot be understood by you in full, but hopefully in part. Enough to not do anything rash, and perhaps enough to help magic continue to grow."
He then gestured at the chair and staff which lay behind him, as well as to the world and heavens above them all. "Let this place remain, and should a mortal prove themselves worthy, bring them to this room. This place is intended to be a reminder of myself and of all mortals, and a reminder is best when it is alive and constant."
"Farewell. And may you find aid upon your path such as you offered me me upon my own."
Giving each of the gods and goddess who helped shape him upon his path a final nod, Raistlin whispered one final word of magic. It was past time for him to start his own journey, with his own companions.
With a clear mind and with no further debt holding him back, Raistlin Majere left the world of mortals and gods. In his wake three gods struggled to accept the answers he had given them and the results they would entail, while mortals remained in ignorance of the archmage's final actions. A new age had dawned on Krynn, and it was anyone's guess as to how it would unfold.
But in the background of everything there was a sound. A soft sound which often went unheeded, save for a chosen few. It was the sound of magic, voicing itself for the first time in decades in unrepentant joy.
For magic sang once more.
A/N: If you managed to get this far, then I thank you for taking the time and hope that you enjoyed it. I wish you luck and joy on your own journeys.