My grandfather made me a promise before he died. He was always there for me. He helped me with my studies, helped me with my chores, helped me learn how to deal with the family that ostracized me. He funded all my pursuits, got me into one of the most prestigious colleges in the kingdom, and took me in when I was thrown out. I owed him everything.
My parents never understood me. To their credit, they never tried. I was the last child. The unwanted one. Twelve years younger than my oldest sibling, and four years younger than my closest, I was the runt in a multitude of ways. My talents didn't lie in politics, like my eldest brother. My skills did not encapsulate the mastery of instruments, like my elder sister. And I certainly did not have the aptitude for weapons and hunting, like my closest brother. But what I did have, much to the revulsion of all but my grandfather, was the gift of Magic.
Magic was akin to the plague. Hundreds of years before I was born, Magi got it in their heads to band together and try to conquor magic, try to tame it and make it their own. But magic is not a creature to be beaten and molded into a pet, and it lashed back. Thousands died, and with the backlash, hordes of dark creatures were released into our realm. Wars raged. Kingdoms grew and fell. Entire continents were devoured by monsters and nightmares, all because those with the talent for magic became greedy. As such, the mark of magic became a blight on humanity, and any like I, who were born with it were destined to be shunned.
An outcast in my home and in my country, I tried my best to fit in, to mold myself into something that others wanted to see. For years I repressed myself, held back my abilities and pretended I was nothing more than what everyone else thought I was: worthless. Until my grandfather discovered what I had been hiding.
A firm believer of the old ways, he told me that I was gifted, destined to be more than my entire family combined. If I faced myself head on, he said, and embraced what I had been given, I could be... Anything.
It seemed ever since the moment he first sussed out my secret he was there with me. Pushing me. Driving me. Teaching me in any way he could. Whenever there was an obstacle that I didn't think I could overcome, there he was, ready to help me over it by any means necessary. Gold, influence, whatever it took to get me to where I needed to be. My grandfather was everything to me.
He made me a promise when he died. I, and I alone stood at his bedside in his final hours. The rest of the family had long since abandoned us both, cutting their ties to save face in the eyes of the people. When his time had come, and he felt the hands of death closing around him, my grandfather pulled me close.
"I will always be with you," he whispered to me, his voice as fragile as leaves in autumn. "Everything I have is yours, my boy. Everything. Never relent in your pursuits... never... And when you need me.. I.. I will come.. I promise you.. I.. I promise... you..."
I became something of a recluse for a handful of years. I had inherited my grandfather's estate, and in an effort to show him that I was worthy of the legacy he thought I could create, I threw myself into Magic. I horded ancient tomes and sacred relics. I poured over long lost scrolls that I spent far too much to acquire. Indeed, there were times when I thought that I might burn through everything my grandfather had left me in my attempts to become something more than what I was. I scoured the countries for those who had talent, and summoned Magi from distant lands to tutor and guide me, to learn the multitudes of ways to conjure and invoke, to enchant and cast. I ate their lessons with an unholy vigor, mastering each art as I was shown it. It was never enough. I never seemed to reach a new level, to find my own path, to make my own way. I was always just copying what others showed me, following the frameworks of what others had done so long before I had even been born. I nearly drove myself mad looking for something new. They told me I was a rare breed, that it took incredible power and focus to be able to learn so many facets of Magic, but I was dissatisfied. I became obsessed with the idea that I was destined to discover a new magic, to find something that no one had yet been brave enough to try. To not only prove myself, but to prove that Magi could be better than what they had become.
And so the years went. I pushed myself harder and harder, becoming something of a feared pariah. I started to become exactly what had kept magic users so secluded and rejected from society. I tried to push at the bounds of magic until they broke, tried to force my way into something new, but to no avail. There seemed to be no new ground to cover. Magic had many paths to walk down, but their ways were short. Much of it had been lost to time, removed from history with the fall of the Magi hundreds of years before me. I might have risen to a power that others feared, but I was a mere shade compared to the magic users of old. And no matter what I tried, it seemed I could never even come close to understanding how they had achieved such heights.
It was in the depths of my despair that I called to him. I thought myself a failure, thought that I had wasted his life and mine with my fruitless dream until there was nothing left of either of us. In the heart of my home, I pulled a dagger across my wrist. As I lay on the floor, I called out to him, mumbling his name as my consciousness slipped from my body.
But he kept his promise.
I came to with a foreign feeling over my body. A numbing sensation that blanketed my senses. At first, I thought I had passed on. That I had fallen from the mortal world to the other side. But I was only partially correct.
The cut on my wrist was still fresh. Blood seeped from the wound with a gentle pulse, but there was something more to it. I didn't feel the heart fluttering fear that I had before. There seemed to be a thrum of power to it. A glow to the vital fluid that poured from me. That was when I saw him. My gaze was still blurred, but my grandfather stood before me, a mass of swirling lights fading rapidly. He smiled at me and then dissipated, his lights blinking softly out of view.
I was shaking. I had inadvertently stumbled across my greatest prize. In my dark state I had sought an end, yet I had found what I had been searching for. I looked at my wrist. The wound had closed. I wiped at the drying blood only to find that there was no wound, no sign of the cut. Wordless yells of excitement erupted from me as I staggered to my feet. I had done it. I had found a magic that had been lost to humanity, possibly discovered it for the first time in the history of magic. I stared down at my wrist, a mad grin spreading across my face. This was what I had been looking for, what I had been pushing myself to the brink for. And on Death's door, I had found it.
There was a way to break through the very veil of life and death. A way to summon back those who had passed on. My mind was already racing with the possibilities. How many souls could be brought forth at once? Could they interact with any materials outside of their deathly realm? Was there a way to bind them back to the living world? A new magical path was being revealed to me, and the key was blood.