The Passing of the Techno-Mages #1: Casting Shadows
|Written by Jeanne Cavelos
Based on an original outline by J. Michael Straczynski
|DelRey, February 2001|
This novel takes place between November 2258 and January 2259.
On the planet Soom, Elric, one of the Circle of five who guide the Techno-mage order, is preparing for a coming convocation: a gathering of all Techno-mages, where the apprentices of varied members will be initiated into the Order. One such initiate is Elric's own apprentice, Galen, who feels uneasy about his abilities to become a full mage. A human emissary called Morden arrives to offer the help and hospitality of Soom's native leader, the Rook of Tain.
Elric encourages Galen to find a spell that expresses his individuality. Galen explores the equations of his spell-language and discovers that there are always multiple elements to an equation, and no spells with just one term. Galen decides to try a single-term equation spell for his training session, just to see what it does.
One of the other initiates, Elizar, approaches Galen informing him his teacher, Kell, the leader of the Circle, is with-holding information from the Order about the approach of a great darkness. Elizar intends to confront Kell about this at the convocation and requests Galen's support. Another initiate Galen meets is Isabelle, with whom he finds himself immediately infatuated.
At his training session, Galen casts his test spell. He unleashes a vast amount of power, unsure of where it comes from or what to do with it, but at no time does he seem to lose control. Elric terminates Galen's connection with his chrysalis, the living technology implanted onto mages, the source of their power.
Elric later tells Galen the power he unleashed is limitless and highly destructive. The uniqueness of Galen's spell-language was what allowed him to discover the spell, and if it had once been known what the spell was the knowledge has been lost to time. He makes Galen promise to never speak of the spell to anyone, or indeed ever cast it again.
Isabelle reveals to Galen that she is conducting forbidden research into the chrysalis, to discover the long-lost secrets of the Techno-mage sciences, encouraged to do so by her mother and teacher, Burell, also one of the Circle and one of the oldest of the Order. Burell approaches Elric and tells him of increased traffic at the jumpgates toward the rim of the galaxy - and to Z'ha'dum, the legendary home of the Shadows.
Elizar confronts Isabelle about her skill and knowledge of the technology, and also Galen about his mysterious powerful spell. Neither of them admit anything, angering Elizar, and he tries to cast a spell against them - illegally casting because his master is not present. Galen instinctively casts a counterspell - the same one as before, severely injuring Elizar. Elric orders Galen to heal Elizar, but Galen does not have much ability in healing spells, and cannot do it.
Elizar and Isabelle are both reprimanded for their actions. Galen is convinced he will be cast out of the Order - but the Circle decides to only reprimand him also, forbidding him from casting his spell again, and sending him on a task for him to prove himself. To settle the fears of the Circle, he is to gather evidence as proof that the Shadows are indeed returning to wage war upon the galaxy. Galen undergoes the initiation procedure, having the living tech implanted into his body, becoming a part him, before he leaves for Zafran 8 with Burell, now very ill, and Isabelle, also newly initiated.
Posing as fortune-tellers, Isabelle and Galen discover from Narn merchants that they are shipping human telepaths to the Rim. Their Captain is dealing with a Drakh, one of a race known to serve the Shadows. They also meet Tilar, a Centauri who had been a mage apprentice before being cast out of the Order, who asks them about what it is to be a full mage. Meanwhile, back on Soom, Elric discovers the man named Morden had been fraternising with the Techno-mages at the convocation, asking them their reasons for being a mage, and the question "What do you want?".
By now, Burell is very sick. She shares with Isabelle and Galen the fruits of her forbidden research into the mage's technology. Isabelle and Galen infiltrate the Drakh's lair, and learn that the Drakh are indeed directed by the Shadows - they even encounter one, and are forced to flee. Elric puts Galen's evidence before the Circle, but they are still hesitant to believe the Shadows are involved. Galen and Isabelle return to the Drakh lair to confront the Shadows again and bring proof once and for all. They learn that the Shadows are interested in enlisting the mages as their allies. Galen and Isabelle are discovered and attacked by the Shadow and the Drakh - and also by Tilar, himself working with the enemy, in possession of a mage chrysalis giving him power. Burell comes to help them, but is killed in the fighting. Fleeing Zafran 8 for Brensil 4, Galen calls for help from Elric. The Circle agrees to send for Elizar to rescue them, and to investigate how Tilar, cast from the Order, comes to be in possession of their sacred tech. They must also make a decision: fight the shadows, or retreat to safety.
When he arrives, Elizar pleads with them to swear their allegiance to him to expose Kell's deception to the Circle, but they refuse. They learn then that he is also in league with Tilar and the Shadows - and he, along with his sister and Kell's second apprentice, Razeel, attacks them. Isabelle is fatally wounded. Resisting the urge to cast his destructive spell, Galen manages to get them to safety. He tries to contact Elric but cannot get through. Instead, he meets Morden, who offers to help Isabelle in return for his allegiance. Galen refuses.
Galen returns to Isabelle, where she promises him that, to prove to him that there is an "ultimate design" to the Universe, she will send him a message from the "other side". Then she dies in his embrace. Soon after, Galen is rescued, and returned to Soom. Kell reveals that he had indeed known of the Shadows returning for two years, and had deliberately allowed Elizar to discover this information so that he would investigate on his own and gather valuable intelligence. Instead, he and Razeel were drawn to join with them. Kell, ashamed of his actions and deception, leaves the Circle. Elric, learning that the Shadows have begun to openly attack, argues that the mages must stay and fight, but the Circle decides they must prepare to depart from normal space: the Shadows are too great a threat. Galen promises himself to take Isabelle's ashes to the Well of Forever, a place she had been searching for all her life, once a repository of mage technology and a burial place for their greatest, but now lost to history and myth. He also swears to exact revenge on Elizar, and manages to locate him through his probes planted on the Narn merchants...
And through it all, Kosh has been watching, holding great interest in the activities of the "fabulists". Many of his kind want them destroyed, fearing they will side with the darkness, but Kosh decides to remain patient and watch what happens...
Notes: The Techno-mage order was brought together thousands of years earlier by Wierden, a (female) member of the now extinct Taratimude race. Ruled by the Circle, the Techno-mages follow a very strict Code of conduct. Throughout its history, people of many species have joined the Techno-mages, the most prolific of which now are the Humans. Apprentice mages control their spells through a chrysalis, which grows with the apprentice, adjusting to their mental abilities, before fully-fledged mages are permanently implanted with living technology. Galen's implants are seen in The Memory of War. Isabelle's death scene is seen in flashback in The Path of Sorrows and the three of their kind who betrayed them identified as Elizar, Razeel and Tilar. (Incidentally, as a Techno-mage, Isabelle was bald and the hair she was seen with in that episode supposedly just an illusion, maintained even after her death!) Isabelle's ashes are eventually placed in the Well of Forever when Galen finds it in her memory (The Well of Forever).
Mention is made of the Streib (Alone in the Night), and the Drakh, the servants of the Shadows, appeared in Babylon 5's fifth season, the telemovie A Call to Arms, and Crusade. Reference is made to Morden's "death" in the Icarus expedition (In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum, the novel The Shadow Within). The Shadows covertly transporting human telepaths for use as weapons was seen in Ship of Tears. We are given a Shadow's point of view - Anna Sheridan's, no less - on the attack on Quadrant 37 (Chrysalis).
Being initiated alongside Galen is "Kane and his crew of fools" (a remark made by Elizar), a reference to the three Techno-mages who appeared in the Legions of Fire series. However, unlike that series, Techno-mage initiates are not referred to as "cloisters" here.
Recurring Characters: Galen. Elric appeared in the Babylon 5 episode The Geometry of Shadows. One of the mages at the convocation is Alwyn, who appeared in the Crusade episode The Long Road. Mr Morden, present on Soom and Brensil 4, immediately prior to his appearance in Chrysalis.
Jeanne Cavelos also authored The Shadow Within.