Chapter 6:

A week passes and you've gone back to your previous life of being an Unsorted doing Sorting Trials. As far as you can tell, you are on the last Trial or two. Most everyone else you've encountered that was an Unsorted doing the Trials either has been Sorted or gave up and went back home.

It almost feels like that whole encounter with Alice and Robert was a dream, if not for the weight in your pocket reminding you that the two of them could be nearby in an instant.

You've gotten pretty good at the Trials, though you are wanting to be done with the whole thing at this point. You hope that some of these skills might help you later, but you really aren't sure.

As you finish another Trial, you turn to leave and suddenly find a member of the Council of Trials. They seem to be heading in your direction and not disappearing without a trace.

I guess Robert was right with the whole completionist theory. Wait… does that mean I'm going to get a trophy?

You feel a compulsion to stand absolutely still, lest they get scared and run off. The figure approaching you is adorned in a white cloak, embellished with a forest green trim and square, runic symbols. They stop in front of you and quiet falls over the area around you. You feel held in your place, unsure if by magic or by intimidation.

"Do you wish to know the reason you were Sorted both Marcana and Illuden?" the person asks, their voice sounding like a harmony of several voices of all different types.

You only muster a nod. The cloaked Council Member waves one of their hands, producing a swirling green portal, and outstretches the other hand towards you, beckoning you to follow.

Seeing the figure head into the portal, you hesitantly take a couple steps towards the portal. You take out the tracking coin from Alice.

Rubbing your thumb over the coin face, you say to yourself "Hopefully this will give me some answers." After a pause, unsure as to where you will end up, you pocket the tracker and proceed through the portal.

Reaching the other side, you find yourself inside a cavernous room, adorned with torches, towering statues, and stalactites—almost as if you are inside of an ancient mountain temple.

"Where am I?" you ask aloud.

"The Realm of the Council of Trials," the multi-voice responds, standing in the center of the room.

"Wait.. Realm? Like… different plane of existence realm?" You start to walk closer to the figure, though still staring in wonder at all of the decorations in the room.

"It is the only place we can observe and create in peace. We would be found so easily if we were constrained to your own material plane." The person who is more than a person starts to walk to a massive stone fire pit nearby, drawing out a pouch from their cloak. A silent murmur of chanting starts to fill the air.

"Woah. That's… cool. I guess." Your attention is now drawn to the fire pit. As you approach the fire, you see the Council Member grab a dust-like substance out of the pouch and throw it into pit. The fire starts to roar, changing its color to a brilliant and unnatural green. All of the torches, previously lit, have been blown out by the force of the green fire. You see the light the pit casts create magical shadows which dance along the walls of the cavern. The shadows swirl along the wall, dancing without accordance to logic or physics.

"Marcana. Illuden. For as long as time has existed, the two groups have forged toxic hatred towards each other, even going so far as to wage war against the other." The lone figure speaks, a clear and booming cacophony of voices. Their face is directed deeply towards the fire, commanding the shadows around you to project wonderous, yet primitive looking art of the past. You almost hear the clash of swords and the sounds of war echo through the chamber.

"One day, devastated by the bloodshed and senseless violence, Merlin—the first to have been accepted into both the Marcana and Illuden—drew upon the deepest and oldest magic he could muster to bring peace between the two sides. Merlin sacrificed himself into a higher plane of existence; he gave his power to one who could master the magic of both groups, empathize with the commonalities between them, and bring peace." You see the shadows showing a robed figure dissipate into nothing and a series of particles swirl into a spiral.

"What does that have to do with me?" You ask, though you feel like it is a bit of an obvious question to ask.

"We believe you are that person—the one to bear the Mark of Merlin."

"Mark of Merlin? I don't really have anything like that—" You start to look around your arms and legs, trying to spot any ominous looking marks you might have received recently.

"It's a symbol which will unlock your true potential and bestow you with the power of Merlin." The spiral on the walls shift into a runic image—one that reminds you of both the crests of the Illuden and Marcana.

"Why have I never heard of this?"

"Not many Unsorted have. Most Marcana and Illuden believe it is just a myth or a children's story."

"Oh." You pause, trying to absorb all of this information. "Have there been other Bearers of the Mark?"

"Just one—many centuries ago—a man of the name Nox," the person who is more than a person responds gravely. The shadows contort into the image of a confident looking figure. "However, he broke the most cardinal rule of this universe; the one thing that the Marcana and Illuden agree on."

"What's that?" You lean closer to the fire.

"You do not mess with death." the voices hiss. "Nox became corrupt with the power. He couldn't handle it. He wanted to become the master of both the Marcana and Illuden. He wanted to become immortal and reverse death itself."

"What happened?"

"Nox's inner corruption grew outward. The Mark of Merlin understood Nox's dark heart and decayed his body from the inside out." The shadows show a figure almost burnt alive—through their heart.

"Wow that's… really morbid," You look away from the fire and the shadows, clutching at your chest. "Could that happen to me?"

"If you accept the Mark and your heart is impure, yes." The cloaked figure seems to be looking at you now, though you have yet to see their face.

"If I accept the Mark? I have a choice?"

"Correct. You can choose to not accept the Mark, but you will be disavowed from all magic henceforth."

"All magic? I can't be a Marcana or Illuden?" Your heart drops at that. Ever since you were a kid, you knew you wanted to be connected to magic. You've come so far with the Trials and now you still might stay Unsorted for the rest of your life.

"C-can I? Can I think it over at least?"

The figure nods. "I will come to you again in two days time." They bow their head down and the green fire returns to the small ember it was when you first entered, torches and shadows restored as if nothing had happened. "At that point, I will need your decision." The cloaked figure proceeds to walk behind you, opening a portal once more.

"Is that it? I still have so many more questions," you plead. Your head is a mess with this sudden barrage of knowledge and the decision you will need to make. You walk closer to the figure and the portal.

"You know what you need to know. The rest will come from within."



You feel a hand push against your back, forcing you through the portal.