A Chapter by Lepus Imperator

Odhiambo is a talented student at the Great Lake Tribe Occult circle. He needs to pass his final test, to confirm that he deserves to be a recognized member of the circle.


Odhiambo has always loved the study of magic. He was a student from the prestigious great lake occult circle, or ጥንቆላ. Their magic was not to be spoken, but written only, or, for the most talented, drawn in the air, through the use of various engraved objects used as amplifiers. He was one of the most talented.

In his native Mountain Tribe, stone carving was a prestigious activity, and as such he had learn from a young age how to chisel fine stones. During his studies, he started to sculpt gemstones that he was using as amplifiers. His last set of gems, one made of a sturdy pink quartz and the other made of blue zoisite were designed for his last test. It was already the fifth set he had created, all the others eventually consumed by the magic itself. His technical skills were almost impeccable, as he was able to nimbly retrace the glyphs and conjure them in the air. It required much focus, and any mistake could be highly dangerous for him.

 His skills had been detected early on by their local magician, who had alerted their fellowship immediately. He was sent to the near-independent order, deep inside the great lake tribe kingdoms. They had a whole archipelago of islands, each hosting a branch of magic. It was a place of high knowledge and mental prowess. Few across the different tribes had the gift for it. Except for the ocean tribe, who was practicing their own kind of religious magic, each tribe was represented here, often forming clans of students. Once their studies finished, they were sent back to their original tribes, but they were forever indebted to the circle. A request from the circle was taking precedence over any other allegiance. Some were taking this allegiance seriously enough to never return to their tribes, having decided to dedicate their lives to the circle.


His training was near completion. His last test was either to create -or rediscover, but such topic was a source of heated debate- a new spell, connect with a brand-new spirit, or masterfully control any energy he could channel. The origins of magic were unsure, and much yet to discover. It wasn't all powerful yet, and there were many limitations to overcome, the firsts being mental and physical exhaustion. Many new limitations were discovered every day, but the general law was believed to be that a powerful magic always require some high-level sacrifice: usually a part of the caster was taken away; which part however, was determined by rules unknown to all. As such, magic was a precious resource, to be used carefully. A real occultist was always considering "consequences" and "magical toll" before executing any arcane. Tales of those overcoming their limits were vague yet grim and accurate on one thing: no one could survive it for long. There were legends as well about magical artifacts capable of cancelling the cost of magic: such items were actively researched by the circle, if they ever existed.


Odhiambo had to carefully put the last glyph on the blue zoisite. It was the most delicate moment, since any mistake could ruin everything: there was stories of amplifiers of such poor quality that it was amplifying the cause rather than the consequence. Or in other words, a bad amplifier could increase the cost of a spell rather than decrease it. Some of Odhiambo comrades had lost an eye or a hand learning this.

His hands were shaking slightly before lettering the ultimate glyph on the hard gemstone. He took a deep breath, and started the first line. Was it traced properly? He hoped so, but could not be sure immediately. The second line needed to be placed shortly after, before the glyph lost its power. The blue zoisite was now engraved with the word ውጤት, unlike any of his previous jewel. He was hoping it would be enough to impress the judges of his final test. Other words could be engraved, but no one was really sure about their effects. Finding a new word to engrave was usually synonymous with obtaining a high-position within the circle. If his stones were properly working, he could become a legend within the circle. He decided to test it immediately, upon using a simple spell of fire, and he started to draw the glyph እ in the air. It left a bright orange trace where his fingers have passed, until the glyph appeared itself. It was fire itself, warming the room, suspended in the air. Upon completion, Odhiambo visualized in his mind the shape he wanted to give to this fire, and finally released the glyph. Nothing happened at first. And suddenly, all of the lights in his room burnt brighter, the flames supernaturally hotter and whiter.


He smiled. His new gemstone was working. He had discovered a new word to chisel, and that alone was enough to give him a permanent position within the circle. In some years, perhaps he would even seize control of the circle and become the greatest Ommunya �" or Impzese as they called them at home -  this world has ever seen.

There were only a few hours left before his test. He chose to rest in order to be fully capable at this moment that would be decisive for the rest of his life.

In the morrow, he was called upon to gather in front of his judges, a jury of experienced Ommunya. He prepares for the ceremony and dresses into a deep red and purple garment. He put on a sculpted wooden mask of the spirit of ignorance, a blank and simple mask, and finally installs his gemstones between his fingers. A servant comes, and bring him to his test.

Three elders welcome him, all wearing their initiated masks and one of them ask him for his amplifier’s examination. They are impressed at the new engraved word, but the first one is not convinced and ask for a demonstration. Odhiambo casts a simple spell of light successively, first with the pink quartz, second with the blue zoisite. A vague of approbative murmurs raise, recognizing the subtle differences between the two amplifiers. They ask him to throw the most demanding spell he knows. Odhiambo decides to cast the illusion of a giant bird, whose flight build a city full of life. This time, he must have succeeded the test he thought. It is impossible for him to read their expressions under those masks.

The second Ommunya, with a mask having chameleon’s eye and long horizontals lines across the nose asks him to approach, and to pass his gemstones once more:

-      What are those glyphs you used?

-      They mean “consequence” Great Ommunya.

-      Oh? I would have said “result” but indeed, your interpretation makes sense as well. Very well. Cast this spell again, without any amplifiers this time.

Odhiambo is not sure if he has understood properly. Casting without amplifiers has always been strictly forbidden since starting his training, and those who were disobeying were cast off and shun forever from the Circle. They are all looking at him, and he must do something. He chooses to obey. He removes his stones, and cast the spell. This time however, when the bird starts flying, he can feel its talons gouging his face on both cheeks. And when the city is completed, he feels it again, from the middle of his forehead to the eyebrows. Blood trickles down on his eyes, then up to his mouth. It tastes different than he remembers, as if his own blood was mixed with something new. When the pain has finally gone, enabling him to stand up, his mask falls on the ground. While it was a blank mask before, it has turned into a hawkish face, wearing three verticals strips on each cheek, and three more on the forehead, similar to his own newly-made wounds. The third Great Ommunya stands up and apply a mixture on his bleeding flesh.

-      Wear those scars proudly. The spell you casted was not a weak one, which would have shown cowardice, untrustworthiness and fear. It was not an overpowered one either, which would have shown arrogance, delusion and over eagerness. Qualities such as these will make you a wonderful Ommunya. Welcome among us little brother. Always remember the cost of your actions.

Despite his burning face, despite lingering pain in his skull, Odhiambo cannot stop smiling. He has passed his test. He has become a true Ommunya, and he swears eternal loyalty to the Circle and its principles.


© 2020 Lepus Imperator

Author's Note

Lepus Imperator
Let me know about the quality of english, the logic of the magic system, the flow of the story: is it clear? Hard to follow?

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Added on July 21, 2020
Last Updated on July 22, 2020
Tags: East Africa, Afropunk, Fantasy, magic, Great Lake Tribe, studying of magic, final test, initiation, ge'ez, luganda, spiritism


Lepus Imperator
Lepus Imperator


I always liked to write and tell story. I started writing in English a couple of years ago, so please forgive my grammar mistakes. I have started to write a fantasy Saga in an East-African setting, a.. more..

Sabiha Sabiha

A Chapter by Lepus Imperator