Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Microstory 1432: Astau

The third vicennial Mage Games were a huge hit. The population of Durus, across the seven towns, was booming. The number of people applying to become town mages was unprecedented. The number of mages needed to protect the towns was lower than expected. The number of people who performed excellently was incredibly impressive. The inception of the fourth town, Hardtland showed that a pattern had formed. The number of towns was rising proportionately to the growth of the population. People were moving out to new places, and over the next twenty years, it was becoming clear that the ability to do this was an expectation. In 2070, the only ones applying for mage selection were those born on Durus. They had never known what it was like to live on Earth, besides the stories their parents and grandparents told them. They fully understood why it was so important that the competition happened, and that the people who were selected knew what they were doing. So they trained. And they trained, and they trained. They prepared their whole lives for the chance to prove that they had what it took to be part of security. Some just wanted cool powers, but it was easy to weed them out, because they lacked true heart, and the dedication that was required to succeed in the contest. Still, there were more winners than there needed to be to serve the towns. Both Hidden Depths and Distante Remoto required fewer mages, because of their strategic locations. Engineers had made the technological solutions surrounding Springfield stronger, and more reliable over the years, even after their original inventor left the planet, so they didn’t need a whole team either. The source mages could not decide who they would select out of all the people who deserved it. They didn’t just want to raise their standards higher; they wanted to reward the people who had dedicated themselves to the cause. So they did something new. They built an entire town in a day, and nearly everyone in it would be a mage. There were a few families, but for the most part, the ones who moved there were single, and ready to go out into the world without their parents’ oversight. They called it Astau. This was based on the root for eight, because it was the eighth town on Durus. They weren’t going for originality here.

It was really important to the founders that this mage town not be seen as elitist, or separatist, but there was always tension. They tried to alleviate these problems before they began by situating the construction site as equidistant from the other towns as possible. Of course, Distante Remoto was farther away than anything, but they found a pretty good spot to be in the middle of everything else. They encouraged people to visit, and their residents to travel to other places, but the friction remained. Things weren’t any better within Astau’s borders. Everyone there thought they were too good for menial jobs, so no one wanted to work in the fields, or on the repair detail. They wanted to use their time powers, and sometimes, they weren’t necessary. They didn’t really feel the need to keep any border security, because when a monster came by, there would always be someone around with the necessary skills to get rid of it. So there was no one working, and no one in the other towns who liked them. They weren’t real mages, because they weren’t protecting people who needed it. They were just there, hanging out by themselves, not contributing to the community, or even being capable of supporting themselves. It was the first major failure since the Mage Protectorate rose to power, and an embarrassment for all involved. In less than a year, many of the residents moved back to the towns they had come from, or requested assignments elsewhere. Some stayed, formed the usual border patrol, and allowed regular people to come in. It became just like any town. In fact, it was probably considered to be the most normal out of all of them. It wasn’t original, like Springfield; tech-based like Splitsville; well-irrigated, like Parade; forested, like Hardtland; militaristic, like Fort Frontline; concealed, like Hidden Depths; or far away, like Distante Remoto. It was just a town in the middle of Durus, with regular people, who were trying their best to live their lives. Perhaps that was what made it special. On Earth, most towns didn’t have some kind of niche, or defining characteristic. They were just places that people lived, instead of living somewhere else. And that was completely okay.

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