Yes, I know what most of you are thinking, why isn't this my next Code Lyoko story? Haha, don't worry, this story's only three chapters long. I'll be working on it while I'm editing RTTP. (I'll still be starting Dunbar Element once RTTP's editing is done or this story is done, whatever comes first- keep those bricks away from my bedroom window)

This is a giftfic for my MapleStory friend/acquaintance/familiar male mammal/training buddy/boyfriend (sometimes all five at the same time), OniDusk, based on our in-joke involving Alishar, the Ludi PQ boss, being a "mage school dropout". Well…why did he drop out of mage school? What's he doing in Ludi? O.O

This version of the story is kind of dark- I'm thinking of doing another that's more satiric and funny. Ah, whatever, I'll try to put in some humor. Enjoy it, Oni!

The Master of Ludibrium
A MapleStory fanfiction
By CarthageAroura

Chapter 1

The Leafre Sorcerer's Academy was quite a sight to behold.

Established at just about the beginning of time, the Academy had seen hundreds upon thousands of students (though not necessarily all at the same time), all eager, bright young men and women who wished to learn the ancient arts of magic. It was situated in the northwest of the Leafre continent, where it sat on a campus of several hundred acres. It stood out stark and clean from the leaf-carved houses of its native neighbors- it was built in the Orbis style, with lots of cobblestone and white brick, held together by what appeared to be, and probably was, magic. It was a famous school, known throughout the Maple World for its intensive curriculum, high standards and qualifications, and most of all for its esteemed graduates, whom the school leaders encouraged to donate mesos back to them when they were old and rich.

This was how they kept themselves running.

At that moment it was the lunch break; the Academy's seven-hundred and fifty-four undergraduate students, ranging in age from twenty-five to just under fifteen, were spread out across the campus gardens, talking, finishing their homework, and eating, often all at the same time. The moments were precious- it was the one hour, from six in the morning to four in the afternoon, when they were not studying. Students were pouring into these gardens from all sides, desperate for the sun, fresh air, and lack of paper.

One student, in particular, had just entered one garden. The other students in his vicinity were thrown into confusion by him- they weren't sure whether to approach with enthusiasm, or run as far away as they possibly could. He sent a mixed signal like that. However, it was easier for many, especially the girls, to obey the former, and soon enough, he had a good-sized crowd around him. A crowd that was happy to be there.

It was Alishar, the handsome honor student, fifth in the whole school.

Alishar beamed at the crowd, flattered by their attention. He twirled his wand in his left hand as he walked. He then tossed it into his right, switched it back into his left behind his back, and then threw it over his head, catching it on his forehead. He stopped in his tracks, staring up at the wand, stepping every so often to keep it balanced. The crowd, and everyone nearby, burst into applause- all but one young man, passing with his arms full of books, who was not amused.

"They always love that one, don't they?"

The chatter and bustle of the crowd hushed. Alishar's wand rolled right off his face, down his front, and into the grass. His eye twitched as he looked at his interrupter- a small, nervous looking boy, perhaps only a year younger than himself, clutching a stack of books half his height. He had long, blond hair, secured safely behind his neck in a ponytail, and wore a white, tucked-in button-down shirt, blue trousers, and an elaborate blue coat- the Academy's male uniform.

Alishar appeared shocked at the boy's presence for a moment, but then his face resolved itself into a cool, uninterested look as he realized who it was. "Ey, Grendel." He jumped upright, picked up his wand, and began twirling it again. By then, the crowd had left. "How's life treating you?"

"Very badly," the boy replied, keeping a morose tone. "These teachers, I swear. If they are going to give us any sort of major examination, they really should have given us a bit more notice. I mean, only two and a half weeks? When did they think I'd be able to study all this?" He gripped his books more tightly.

"Oh, I don't know…maybe when you realize that you're a neurotic worrywart?" He laughed, caught his wand once more, and stuffed it in his pants pocket. He had long hair like Grendel, in an odd, grey-white shade, but unlike his friend and roommate, he let it run wild, making no attempt to tame or care for it. He was tall, thin, and wore nearly the same uniform, though his shirt was untucked and his coat tied round his waist. "I tell you that every day, and you never seem to absorb it."

"I know…" Grendel looked to the side, the slightest bit ashamed. He was the top student in the school through hard work and study, but Alishar was far more popular than he was through, it appeared, little to no effort at all.

Alishar blinked at him. "Shouldn't you put those in a bag or something?"

"Ah, ah, yes!" Smiling nervously, he took the empty bag off his back, set it on a nearby bench, and began stuffing his thick, heavy textbooks into it. Alishar watched him, still looking very bored. Subconsciously, he began twirling his wand again.

"So…" Grendel felt, even as he worked, that it was healthy to keep conversation going. "How are you doing? How's your study going?"

"Study?" Alishar looked at the sky, counting the clouds more than he was listening. "Why? We got an exam or somethin?"

"Yes, as I just finished telling you!" He shoved the last book in, and slung the bag over his shoulder. "We have an enormous examination on practical offensive spells coming up very soon, tomorrow, in fact-" He skipped a beat, having shocked himself. "Tomorrow! Oh my goodness, that's so soon…I don't believe it, I only have eight hours left to work before it's lights out-"

"Grendel, please. It's an examination. We've had hundreds of them, and you always come out great. Stop worrying." He stared at his nails. "'Sides, practical offense is no sweat. Just point, and kill. Easy." He pointed his wand at a tree, for effect.

"Perhaps for you…you and your natural abilities." He began to walk up the garden path. Alishar followed quickly behind. "But there is also the wand movement, and the correct amount of power channeled, and the size and consistency-"

Alishar sighed. "You know, Grendel, when you are in a battle, and it's you versus Death, Death will not care about the consistency of your lightning blasts. He will care about the pain they cause, no matter how much pain. 'Scuse me-" He whirled around, and waved in a random direction. A group of giggling fairies, translucent wings shimmering in the omnipresent sunlight, giggled some more.

"I take it you haven't studied," Grendel mumbled darkly, trying to avoid his friend's eye.

"Nope!" He whirled back around, looking positively gleeful, as though this were a major achievement. "Haven't cracked a book all day. Teachers cracked 'em for me. Cracked me across the knuckles with 'em again…" He held up a very bruised left hand.

Grendel sighed, unimpressed. "I don't see why you're so proud of this."

"You don't see? My dear friend-" Alishar grabbed him round the shoulder, and pushed him along as he walked. "I'm proud of my punishments and shortcomings for one good reason. Through them all, I'm still a star student. I've got skills. I've got talent. I…am awesome." He beamed. "So what if I'm not the best behaved, or the most studious-" he shoved him in the gut- "My high rank here proves that no matter what, I will get ahead in life."

"But that makes no sense."

There was a heartbeat's pause.

"So?" Alishar finally responded. "I understand it. That's what matters." He split from his friend, and looked forward, up the path. "I'm gonna grab some lunch. You coming?"

"Uh…ye-no. I need to go study some more. See…see you later, I guess." Without another word, Grendel whirled round and started up the path in the other direction, stumbling under the weight of his bag. Alishar stared after him for quite a while.

"…Loser." He sighed, and kept walking towards the lunch pavilion, twirling his wand as he went. Maybe he'd bring something back for him for later. Maybe he wouldn't. But he probably would. Though Grendel was a loser, he was still his friend, and when your friend is a loser, you really do have to look out for them.

Hours had passed.

Lights out time at the Academy was 9 PM, regardless of any sort of parties, underground Match Cards tournaments, or studying for examinations. At the moment, it was eight-thirty, and all three of these were well underway. In one room in particular, the latter was being milked for all it was worth- a room preceded by a small, peeling door marked with a 52. The 5 hung upside down, and the 2 was quite rusty.

Grendel sat alone in his room, surrounded, as he usually was, by piles and piles and piles of books. He was stressing a whole lot more than he was absorbing.

Staring at a page, he held up his wand and waved it in a carefully choreographed pattern. Okay, he thought to himself, left, right, up, center, rotate, concentrate, down, release. A thin jet of blue ice burst from the tip. He groaned. Too thin. Left, right, up, center, rotate, concentrate, up- no, down. A jet of water shot from the wand, soaking his books. He swore, very loudly- his concentration had failed him again. Groaning, he swished the wand, which evaporated the water, but left the books still warped.

There was a thud outside the door. Grendel whirled round just in time to see it burst open, revealing Alishar. He was in noticeably different spirits than his roommate- though whether those spirits were good or bad, he couldn't tell. He sprinted from the doorway, spun around, let out a wild whoop, and then collapsed on his bed. He punched the air, and then lay limp.

"Life…life's a damn party, my friend," he mumbled under his breath.

Grendel glared at him for a moment, and then returned his eyes to his work. However, his concentration remained broken. "You do know that there are times to party, and times to worry about the security of your future."

"Grendel, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. You need to lighten up." He folded one arm behind his head, and reached into his coat with another. "I brought you some food."

He threw a white potion at the desk. Grendel caught the glass bottle in midair with a wave of his wand, grabbed it, took a swig, and set it down.

"It's…very warm."

"So I sat on it. Big deal." He sighed. "Look at you. You're taking this exam way into the extreme. You'll ace it, as always, and I'll pass, as always, and we'll just keep on being happy little people."

"In case you haven't noticed, it isn't our destiny to just be happy little people. We have been given an amazing talent, a fine education with which to practice it, and endless opportunity for social and financial gain. We have both been graciously offered a fine spot in Maple society, Alishar, and in order to guarantee it unto ourselves, we have to hone our skills while we can, and as well as we can."

"Yeah…" Alishar trailed off for a moment, staring off into space, but an instant later, began again, his tone surprisingly indignant. "Fine spot in Maple society, eh?" He turned on the bed. "Tell me, my dear friend, what is it that most graduated sorcerers and magicians do in our lovely little Maple society today?"

"Ah…why…" Grendel's hand stopped dead on his page. "They keep order throughout the continents, solve any sort of conflict, heal the sick, fix the injured or cursed, keep the monster savages from entering the towns…very noble duties."

"Noble? Yeah, noble. We're the waitstaff. The glorified damn waitstaff!" He pounded his fist on his sheets. "We're only there to clean up the messes nature is too lazy to fix."

"I suppose the job could boil down to that, but the prestige-"

"Prestige? PRESTIGE?" Alishar leapt into a sitting position, and pointed at his face. "I can get all the prestige I want without any effort at all. I don't need any sort of magic dust to get me prestige!"

"Well go and brag about it, why don't you…"

"Oh, shut up." He lowered his arm, and looked to the side. "The point I'm trying to make is, you and I, we harness extraordinary power. With the right kind of temperament, we could be building empires, creating gold from lead…one could be a god if he learns the right arts. The energy of magic…the possibilities, the boundaries are nigh endless. But our society restricts us with its mundane tasks and duties." He lay back on the bed again. "What I'm trying to say is, we could do so much more. I could do so much more. I could show the world what I can truly accomplish when I actually set my mind to something."

There was silence in the room for a long time, interrupted only regularly by the flipping of another page in Grendel's book. A short tone sounded through the dormitories, followed by a collective moan- two minutes to lights out. Grendel looked up at the tone, and then over at his friend. He sighed.

"Well…that's just not what we're meant to do." Slowly, he picked up a book. "Uh, here. At least make some effort to pass."

He tossed the book over to Alishar. He took one look at it, raised an eyebrow, and then looked away.

There was another tone. Lights out. The power rocks in the holders on the walls dimmed of their own accord.

The next day shone fresh and clear, a perfect day for a major exam.

The grounds, as expected, were in bedlam. Students rushed from corner to corner, trying to cram in all the last- minute studying that they possibly could. Some of the younger ones sat in close hunches, debating the authenticity of concentration and wit-sharpening spells told of by older students, while the aforementioned older ones also sat in close hunches, pointing and laughing at them. All of them held small slips of paper with numbers on them. A small teacher, his deep voice amplified by his wand, called out each number in turn, as a cue for the student to enter the exam hall and perform their display.

He was currently on number 194. Alishar was number 197, and Grendel had been 165. There were thirty exam halls, meaning that Grendel, having been called the soonest, would be out very soon. At the moment, Alishar was sitting on a bench close to this hall, with, as always, a gang of giggling girls around him. Some of them were humans, but several were fairies, and even a Mu Lung shepanda had found its way into the group. They were talking to him, playing with his hair, and, of course, giggling.

Alishar beamed at all of them. If he never heard a giggle again for the rest of his life, it would be too soon.

A loud "195!" roared throughout the common. It did nothing to quiet the crowds, but it did attract the attention of one small, frightened first year, probably number 195. He stood up from the rest and walked nervously towards the door to the exam hall, which opened to admit him. He shuffled inside, passing slowly by the exiting previous occupant.

Far from shuffling, Grendel had hit the ground running. He shot through the garden, backpack heaving dangerously in either direction, looking desperately for an innocent soul to pour out every detail of the examination's events to. Usually, he found this soul in Alishar, not out of any convenience, but only familiarity. As he passed his friend, he saw first him out of the corner of his eye, and then his crowd. He stopped directly in front of him, caught his breath, composed himself, and then whirled on him. "Oh, please."

"Huh? Excuse me, Rowen-" Alishar turned himself away from a red-haired fairy to look at his friend. "Oh. You. Out already?"

His words sent up a fresh new chorus of giggles. Grendel did not bat an eyelid at any of them. "Yes, I am, unfortunately." Rather nervously, he walked closer to the bench, and sat a comfortable distance away. The girls took a quick look at him, deemed him uninteresting, and then looked away. "I don't believe it…I can't believe I messed up that badly…"

"Oh, jeez." Rather reluctantly, Alishar broke free of his crowd (which, seeing as they were not going to be paid attention to any longer, dispersed rather quickly) and crouched down by the blonde. "What happened? No exaggerations."

Grendel ignored the jab- he was obviously a bit more preoccupied. "Oh, it was awful…I preformed the lightning motion uppercounterclockwise instead of lowerclockwise, and they wouldn't let me redo, I don't believe it, I came so close to singing that poor man's hair… and the size was all wrong…"

"And invariably, you'll do well." He gave him a sharp poke on the head. "You always agonize over the dust motes, Grendel, the stupidest little details! And yet, half the students in this school would kill to have your record. If you were to complain to any of them the way you complain now to me, they'd beat you to breakfast mush. Not that it'd be worth much to them…I'd imagine they'd want a morning meal with a bit more taste." He laughed darkly to himself.

Grendel sat silent for a moment, stunned. In the chatter behind him, "196!" bellowed through the air. A tall, dark boy stood up near them and walked fluidly towards an opening door. "Alishar…do mine ears deceive me, or did you just give me a cleverly disguised compliment?"

"I'm merely stating facts. Don't think I'm stepping down to an admirer's simpering level." He threw a cold glance over at the red-head, Rowen, who was conversing and giggling still further with a blonde fairy. "I'm next, right?"

"You should be." He fell over onto the grass, attempting to relax. "Have you done any more studying?"

"Maaaaaaybe." He leaned against the stone bench, twiddling with his wand. "And maaaaaaaaaaaybe not."

"You're going to fail, Alishar…"

"Mmm hmm," He closed his eyes, brought his wand to his face, and began sucking on the non-magical end. "Perhaps."


"197!" Grendel was abruptly cut off by the teacher's soronus. He gasped, and snapped up off the ground, clearly surprised by the calling of his friend's number. But Alishar, much less concerned, simply stood, looked down at his tiny slip of paper, and arched an eyebrow. Then, calmly, he put his wand in his back pocket, waved vaguely at his friend, said an offhand "Seeya," and walked down the row of doors toward his exam hall.

He would be in the third, he remembered vaguely. He walked up to the open door, passed by the rather fat girl who was just leaving, and entered the unknown room.

It was like a practical exam hall should be- dark, dank, and huge. It gave off a smell of wet earth and fresh rain, somewhat comforting, but a bit annoying. Small, glowing power rocks illuminated an alcove above, where five old, withered wizards sat. They were all nearly identical- white hair, white hat, long white beard, white robe. One big, solid column of white. Intimidating to many, but nothing to Alishar. He stood up straight and tall, wand in hand, ready to show them that he could be better than any of the simpering masses.

"Number…197," the one in the head spoke out, with a high, squeaky voice unsuited to his words. "Alishar, seventh year, of Victoria Island. Official title, Class Three Fire/Poison Mage. Standard aptitude level, 81. This is you, correct?"

"Yessir," he responded automatically, nodding his head in traditional respect.

"Very well." The head wizard brought out a large, tattered scroll from nowhere and unrolled it. He looked down at the student with a mix of indifference and disgust, as though there were many things he would rather be doing. "This is your practical exam. It shall last a half-hour and consist of a display of your mastery of the lesson which you have learned in the past half-year. Please take out your wand and make sure it is in proper working order."

"Ey, I already got it out, but, whatever." He twirled it in his hand, mumbled something under his breath, and pointed it at the ground. A shaft of blue light flew out of it. "Kay, clean."

The wizard arched an eyebrow. "Your cheek is not appreciated, 197, and it will do you no good in your future life. This is simply what the instructions to this examination say, and I know a clean wand when I see one." The other four muttered to each other. Alishar grimaced. He didn't like being spoken to like this, as though he was dirt.

"The examination has begun. Part One." He still read off the long scroll. "Let's warm up with something simple. Show me your Fire Arrow skill."

Fire Arrow. Simple as anything, he thought, he'd known this for years. He swerved his wand up, pantomimed the pulling of a bowstring, and doing so sent a single large, fiery shaft towards the ceiling. It hit the top and evaporated.

"Mastered, as it should be. Good. Now, poison. Show us your Poison Brace."

He did so. For most of the half hour, he followed their instructions, performing magic he knew, or, at the very least, vaguely remembered. Often he saw them mutter to one another, or the head take notes. The head kept looking down upon him with that same contempt, as though he were nothing, a pea compared to him. Somehow, Alishar just couldn't get this out of his mind.

He thinks he's so important, so wonderful, so up on his high horse, he thought. But really, is he anything? He was here before, rest assured. He went through the Academy, probably graduated with all those damn high honors, those damn awards, all those flowers and butterflies lifting his ego, but really, he's just doing a routine job. Training another like him. They're all like that. We, we're all going to be like that. Living in comfort, pride and false prestige, not even realizing we could be much more. I know I don't want to be like that. Grendel, maybe, but not me.

He sent out a large, firey explosion, which in and of itself explained why the hall was so large. Like, this. Why should our abilities be confined to one specialty? Why can't we do with them as they please? They're holding us back. They're stunting our growth, our true potential.

He returned to neutral form again. The magicians clapped, as was custom, and the head adjusted his spectacles.

"Ah. I'm…impressed." He sounded as though he was having trouble admitting it. "You are a talented magic user, 197…unusually, exceptionally talented. The raw power within you could be used quite to your advantage, I'd think."

"Uh…" Alishar was caught off guard by the compliment, but still remained cautious. "Thank…you?"

"However…" He scribbled something on his scroll. "Your performance of magic, however powerful, is haphazard and unrefined. You do not entirely understand the mechanics of the specific approved spells, as seen by your frequent faults and misdoings. You are as of yet untempered, and, at the moment, near useless. It is not your power, but your ability to shape it into something that one can actually use." He looked down at his parchment. "We have one final test. I am sure that you are being introduced to the principles of element combination."

The man's words bounced off Alishar's ears. He gripped his wand. He was angry, angrier than he'd ever been in his life. Everything he'd thought, every snide comment he'd made about magicians in his mind, had now come true. He no longer distrusted the magicians above him, he loathed them, despised them and their false, pompous, needlessly regimented ways. He grimaced at them, dared them to say another word.

"One technique which you are being taught compels you to combine your poison and fire attributes as one, Magical Composition. I am sure you have not learned too much about it, or, in the very least, you have not paid attention to any mention of it…but, show me what it is you can do by means of combining the elements." He sat back. He didn't look like he was expecting much. "Well?"

Magical what?, a small voice in the back of his head piped in, but it was quickly silenced by stronger, angrier ones. Why should I be showing them something that isn't my strength?, he thought. Why should my ability be gauged on limited techniques? I can do more. And they will know it.

He straightened himself up to his full height, a mocking smile on his chiseled features. "Very well, then, gentlemen. I'll show you what I can do."

Carefully, he swung his wand upward. He wasn't focusing on one particular technique- the only thought in his mind was to show them, display his power. He swerved it back down again, still smiling.

The wizards gasped. The room began to shake and rock violently, toppling one particularly short one right out of his seat. The concrete around Alishar cracked in a perfect, shining circle, and then in a straight line, running right into the wall below the alcove. One crack spread out into more cracks across the floor, and Alishar was loving every second of it. He spun around, creating several more from other edges of the circle.

Finally, the floor was a web of cracks, stretching up the walls and towards the alcove. The four lesser wizards were shaken by the display, yet reverent, silent. The head had his face turned away. Alishar simply looked triumphant.

"And that's what I can do, ya dumb prunes!" He pointed up at them. "Put that in your book and grade it!"

There was a short, stunned silence. He put his wand down, and the crack's magic light faded, leaving behind nothing but a maze of rubble, one that would take the repairmen weeks to clean. One crack had gone right through to the hall next door, and the person inside it- a Leafre sprite- was peeking inside, looking scared. The wizards stood still for a moment, and then the back four resumed their chatter, whispering and pointing at Alishar. The head, domineering as always, peered over the wall of the alcove, eyes now narrowed to little slits. Alishar glared right back up at him.

"You…" He was having difficulty interpreting the situation. He shuddered. "Go."

Alishar blinked. "What? Not going to punish me?"

"Go. Leave. You are done." He placed his hand on his forehead, and shook his head.

"I will." He bowed, in a mocking formal display, and left the hall, sidestepping cracks on the floor. As he approached the door, he muttered "Sorry, I kind of broke the floor" to the person he knew was passing by him, though he could not see him or her.

The outside sunlight, to the obedient student, would have been comforting, but to Alishar, it blinded. He ran down the row, past numerous oblivions chatting and laughing, past numerous greetings ignored, right past Grendel, a stranger at the moment. He didn't want to think about them. He just wanted to get back to his dormitory, where his mind would be free to wander, and his experiences free to leave him.


He felt a tug on his shoulder, and turned around. Grendel was behind him, holding onto his shirt. He held Alishar's bag in his hand- something that he had forgotten. "Where are you going? Did you finish your exam?"

"Uh, yeah, I did…" He wrenched his shoulder out of Grendel's grasp. "I, uh…I need to go back to the room."

"Why? There's nothing there that you-" He gasped, and his eyes widened in personal realization. "You didn't do well, did you? See, Alishar, I told you that you should've studied…"

Alishar did not respond. He grabbed his bag out of his friend's hands, whirled round, and ran in the direction of the dormitory building. He knocked several people out of his way as he ran. Grendel stared after him, evidently confused.

"...You could appeal for a retake, you know!"

The dorms were empty, save for Alishar.

He burst into his room, waved his wand vaguely at his power rock, which lit it instantly, tossed his bag onto Grendel's bed, and flopped down onto his own. He squirmed on the covers, trying to find a comfortable spot, but it just wouldn't come. He kicked off his boots, untied his coat, and threw them both onto Grendel's bed with his bag. No help.

He rolled up against the wall. He was in trouble, he knew. Perhaps even in enough trouble to be expelled. The counselors would come, ask him all these useless questions, try to persuade him that magic is dangerous unless controlled, all the stuff he was taught in the first year…but those were trifles to him. Trifles of the system. All blotted out by the contempt on the head wizard's face.

His thoughts during the exam returned to him. They should've been impressed that I could do that. Why weren't they? Because it didn't fit into rulebook specifications, I know. Well, screw the rulebook. Why do they even have rules to magic, anyway? Magic is just extra energy, flowing within us and waiting to be tapped in a million impossible ways. Who says there should only be a select few outlets for the powers I have?

He kicked the wall. Whoever they are, they're afraid of us, he finally concluded. Afraid of our real power. Afraid of what we could do to change the world. Afraid…of me.

He smiled. The thought that he was feared amused him somehow.

Groaning, he rolled over on the bed. His head hit something hard- he jerked up, and looked down. It was the book that Grendel had thrown on his bed yesterday, the one he hadn't bothered to look at. At the angle that he was lying at, he could just read the cover. He squinted, trying to decipher the faded gold print.

Geographies and Biographies of the Continents of the World. He laughed darkly to himself. Leave it to Grendel to study all the trimmings. But, having nothing else to do, he sat up, stretched, picked up the book, and flipped a few pages.

Victoria Island- Main Imports and Exports. Meh. Orbis- Fairy Identification. Blah. Amoria- He turned the page immediately, not wanting to read anything more about that garish continent. Losing interest, he looked down at the page that he had just opened to, and, of all things, arched an eyebrow. There on the page was a picture spread of a large city, colorful, gay, and sprawling, yet oddly knobbly and disjointed. Square-looking people walked through its streets, trading square-looking wares.

The city of Ludibrium, seated atop the Eos and Helios towers, is a marvel to physics, magic, and common sense alike, the caption read. It is a living toyland, inhabited entirely by dolls, blocks and other playthings, though the true source of these creatures' sentience remains a mystery to all scholars. Not much is known about this area, other than its existence. It is currently closed to outside civilians, with its only contact with the Maple world being researchers and experienced magicians.

Ludibrium? He arched another eyebrow. He'd never heard of the place. Not even rumors of a closed continent. Intrigued, he turned the page. Next were several paragraphs in a line down the page, right next to a large map of what appeared to be the continent. It was rather odd-looking- two towers (which he assumed were Eos and Helios), each topped with a large bunny head, held up what appeared to be a large, suspended bowl. Atop the bowl was the city from the previous picture.

Though it gives out a cheerful, affable air through its childish playfulness, the bottom paragraph said, many researchers describe the continent of Ludus Lake as 'disturbing', 'giving off bad vibes', and 'I'm never coming here again, let me explore the Ant Tunnel or something'. These claims are repeated often, and very well-justified. Though the surface city of Ludibrium is about as docile and demure as the toys which it resmbles, its underground quarters, the "Toy Factory", suggest darker things. Very few researchers have braved the depths of this inverted dome, and of them, very few have come back. Of those that have come back, none of them are in a sufficient physical or mental state to give us any information.

It was official- Alishar was hooked. He tossed the pages wildly, eating all the information he could about the Toy Factory. "Professor H. Shroom, now an inmate at the Kerning Mental Ward, screams incessantly of a "great clock-eyed beast" that attempted to kill him." "Locals questioned say that they will not go near the Factory, though they hold it in a sort of disturbing reverence." "It is speculated that the Factory is the source of the power that keeps the toys alive, the heartbeat behind this suspended continent. The true purpose of the Factory may never be known, but, one thing is for certain- the Factory is a source of great, incomprehensible power. If harnessed, as it may never be, there is no end to the ability the controller might possibly possess."

The article on Ludibrium ended there. The room seemed oddly silent, the only noise being the hum of the power rock. Alishar sat there, reading the sentence over and over, trying to take it in.

Finally, he chuckled, and shut the book with a loud clap. Carefully, he reached over the side and slid it under his bed. He fell down over his covers, still laughing quietly to himself. Power. Great, incomprehensible power. No one tells that power to be tempered. No one gives it direction. And yet…the mortal fools still attempt it. They try to restrict it to their wants. Their standards of magic.

He lay there for a while, staring at the ceiling, until, as suddenly as a bolt of lightning, a scandalous thought struck him. But I…I am beyond those standards. Beyond popularity, grades, what have you. I realize and ignore the finite limits of their spells, their little duties. I've proved that to them already, haven't I? That I can outperform their cute little restrictions? They say I have power, but no temperament. Well, I need no temperament. And neither does this Factory. We are alike, in so many ways…and together, we could do so much. Create a purpose, create a reason to live. Create greater magic than they have ever seen.

He sat up, letting his hair fall over his face, and smiled. "And we'll show them. We'll show them just what they're missing. We'll show them what they've left behind. Power. True supremacy. Freedom."

…Sorry if it's kind of confusing. It's kind of meant to be. Basically, he's gone power crazy. Bwahaha.

Just clearing things up for confused people and non-Maplers who happen to be reading this- Leafre is a continent in Maple. The Leafre Sorcerer's Academy isn't a part of the game, I made it up for the story's sake. Alishar, as I said above, is the Ludi PQ boss. In the game he looks vaguely like an obese penguin- he's a human right now, but we'll get to the obese-penguin-ness later. Grendel is Grendel the Really Old, the Magician job instructor, except lots younger. So, the story takes place long long ago. Mmyep.

Hope you like it, Oni, and that it doesn't make your brain asplode or something!

- Carth