7 Dec

Magon, a famous wysard, accepted the invitation from the city of Vengar to deal with an unprecedented problem that challenged all traditional magic.

What sort of spell was capable of keeping nearly half the population awake every night? How was Vengar to function, operate, and survive in exhaustion and langor without restful sleep for so many of its inhabitants?

A tall skeleton, Magon did not wear the antique crimson robe of his craft and profession. He might be taken for a typical artisan in tan work clothes and brimless hat. Impressiveness and prestige meant nothing to him. Results were his only measurement of success.

Through the narrow, winding streets with their gray adobe buildings, the newcomer made his way with frequent questions of the Vengarians about the dispensary of the city’s leading iatric, Jenes. As soon as he located the address he was hunting for and announced himself to an assistant, the physician was summoned and appeared. He was a short, fatty figure with flaxen hair and pale brown eyes.

“Come into my consulting sanctum,” smiled Dr. Jenes. “We can speak in confidence there. There is much for me to tell you about the unsleeping sickness suffered in our city.”

The pair entered a tiny room and sat down on squabs facing each other.

“This illness has never been seen before in Vengar or anywhere else, as far as anyone can tell,” began the medico. “At first, it afflicted only a few, but now the condition has become like a plague. Every day, new cases of the strange insomnia surface all over the city. Rich, poor, and the middle social ranks, all are attacked with the sleeplessness.

“No soporific substance works to reverse it. Once a person contracts the condition, there is no curative remedy, none at all.”

Magon then posed a question. “How can the victim live without sleep?” he inquired. His eyes searched the physician’s face.

The other man frowned. “That has puzzled me too. I do not know and have no explanation whatever for how the disease operates.”

Both of them fell silent for a short time.

“I would like to talk with and examine some of your patients, sir,” said the wysard in a soft murmur. “That will help me to orient myself and choose what course I am to take.”

Jenes then invited Magon to eat with him at a nearby inn where a room had been reserved for the tired traveler.

In the days that followed, numerous stories that were very similar were retold to the wysard.

The sleepless sickness always hit a person without warning of any kind.

Try as one might, sleep would never come. Restlessly, individuals lay and rolled in bed, night after night. All the old folk remedies failed. Not a iatric practitioner in the city was able to provide any relief to anyone. Those who were engaged in medicine exhausted all that was available to them. Nothing appeared to be able to help the suffering patients.

Magon racked his memory,hunting for a remedy. He knew of nothing in the realm of arcane knowledge and occult methods. The problem appeared to be something entirely new, never before experienced by anyone.

What is there specific to Vengar that causes this misfortune? he asked himself.

One day, Magon presented a sudden question to the medico advising and guiding him in his work.

“I am curious as to why this city has no magical sages of its own. Is there some reason why an outsider like me had to be brought in?”

Dr. Jenes avoided looking the wysard directly in his emerald green eyes. He spoke to him in a distant-sounding whisper full of fearful emotion of some sort.

“Long ago, there were magicians here who became rich and powerful because of their adept skills. They grew overbearing and very proud. There were few legal or social limits placed on them.

“Then, a leading circle of magicians turned themselves into evil waerlogos. They won enormous ransoms by threatening people with loss, injury, and pain. Devilish oppression resulted, until the governing council of Vengar had to expel and exile all of them as criminal traitors. The overthrowing of waerloga power was violent and difficult, no doubt about that.”

“And there are no more of them left in your city?” asked Magon.

“As far as I know, there are none here now,” said the physician with a face of stone. “They became too much of a public danger to permit them to reside in Vengar.”

“So, there is no residue of their secret knowledge of curses and spells?”

“I do not believe so,” replied Dr. Jenes, suddenly looking to the side.

Speculating that location might be a valuable indicator in his investigation, Magon took a large, detailed map of Vengar and stuck small red pins wherever there had been reports of cases of unsleeping.

The work took him considerable time to complete, yet no discernible pattern emerged at all. The cases seemed to be scattered about the city at random.

Frustrated and at a loss as to how to proceed, the wysard decided to study the main industries and trades within the boundaries of the municipality. He began with the white metal foundries, then proceeded to wool and silk textiles. Then, his focus centered on the special works that turned out plasma crystals for lantern lighting. This was an area where Vengar had always been an innovative pioneer and leading producer, he recalled.

Dr. Jenes was happy to assist him by providing introduction to the superintendent of the main hohlraum where pulse plasma was crystalized for the purpose of light storage. The man in charge of the large, complicated facility was a giant named Gefah. This stocky manager led the wysard through the workshops of the enormous factory.

“We call our primary installation here the hohlraum because it contains the hollow spaces where inertial confinement and fusion occurs. The plasma becomes so hot that it is converted into light with super-strong pulse to it. We call the confined plasma a pinched, condensed type of light radiation. No other city anywhere has the secret of creating this.

“When it settles into a crystalline form, the pulse plasma is ready for useful exploitation. Much of today’s night illumination results from what we do here in our hohlraum.”

“That is how the city’s street lanterns are fueled up, then?” asked Magon.

“Indeed,” triumphantly grinned Gefah. “No one else can accomplish what we do.”

Magon awakened in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep.

A wild thought occurred to him, almost in the form of a moment of dreaming.

Could it be that what went on in the plasma hohlraum was what kept do many people from sleeping in Vengar?

Was the insomnious condition of the sufferers a side effect of the work going on with pulse plasma crystallization? Could all the problems stem from that one industry, so unique to this one city?

Early the following morning he rushed at a run to the office of Dr. Jenes, sensing a great urgency about what he had to reveal to him.

The two men, one tall and the other short, stood facing each other directly in the physician’s sanctum.

Magon began to relate what he had all of a sudden concluded, taking note of how the face of the other turned pale as he listened. When the wysand was finished describing his theory, the doctor began to speak in a low tone of voice.

“You must be careful in presenting such potentially dangerous ideas, my friend. They could easily upset the economic life of our city. What if what you say is only a nightmare with no foundation in reality?”

Taken aback by surprise, Magon found himself unable to make any reply.

“I intend to make a thorough investigation of what you are claiming,” continued Jenes in a cool, level voice. “You and I must find out whether there is any truth in such an idea.”

“How do you intend to do that?”

“I will myself go to the hohlraum facility and have a look around. There may be something to learn there that can answer this question of unsleeping.”

Gefah seemed unaffected by what he heard from the iatric who had come to his office adjacent to the hohlraum complex. But the gears of his mind began to spin rapidly as he replied to the questions of Dr. Jenes.

“What this wysard fellow claims to think is nonsense. He is connecting entirely unconnected phenomena. Pulse plasma that we create here cannot have any effect whatever on the scattered minds of the so-called sleepless. This man has a wild, unrealistic imagination.

“I hope that he can be convinced to keep such fancies to himself. Should he start to tell others what he is dreaming, there could be official regulation and limitations upon him for spreading libels.”

“What do you mean by that, sir?” nervously asked Jenes.

The superintendent frowned. “There would be serious consequences to any kind of slandering of our plasma crystal production. Public authorities would want to control any negative attack on our important, vital industry.”

The physician, seriously worried and concerned, soon departed for his office.

Try as he might, Magon was unable to fall asleep that night.

When morning arrived, he recognized and named the malady that he now suffered.

The condition of the unsleeping had come upon him. Of that he was certain. The thought fortified his belief that he knew what caused it in Vengar and nowhere else in the land.

Somehow, in the game of the life of a wysard, misfortune had struck him. He now possessed the defect he had been called here to get rid of.

But now he believed that he knew the cause of all the sleepless suffering.

What could he or anyone else do about the problem from the hohlraum?

It had to be dealt with directly, at once.

Magon hurried to the building of the plasma crystal factory, stopping at the entrance and looking up at its numerous silicon windows.

I must harness all of my inner power of spell-casting, he commanded himself.

With incredible effort, he threw the occult strength of his mind forward and upward. The target of his focus was the hohlraum where plasma crystals were being produced. His eyes could make out the light of inside lanterns that illuminated those upper floors. Only when all of them were extinguished would he know that he had succeeded in his goal.

Looking up, Magon continued to transmit his power as a wysard into the factory.

How long would the effort take to do this job? he wondered under the colossal strain on his mental powers.

Time flowed on, but no victory or success came to Magon.

But then a fat figure he recognized approached him from down the street.

It was Gefah, the man in charge of the plasma complex.

He came up to the magician and spoke to him, forcing Megan to stop his spell-casting.

“A night without any sleep struck me last night, and I realized that the widespread malady has come to me, too.”

Magon stared at the red, tired face of the official in astonishment.

“You are sleepless, then?” he said in wonder.

Gefah nodded yes. “I must now accept what you assert about the cause of it. My work places me directly near the plasma crystal apparati in the hohlraum.

“All operations shall halt at once. There will be no more plasma production until all leakage is stopped.

“You were right, my good man. Completely right.”

Magon smiled, because he was certain that the unsleeping sickness was soon going to come to an abrupt end.


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