Hitchhiker's Guide to the Planes
“Come now. I’m sure this will be a great experience for you,” Castian mused earnestly as he stepped into the dueling ring opposite the young squire. Both the Baron and the Marquis turned their attention to the match that was about to begin right in front of them.
The young Elven Wizard of Azor gripped his quarterstaff as the young squire armed himself with a sword and shield. "Are you a Wizard, sir?
The squire’s expression changed to fright. “Please don’t turn me into a toad, sir!” he said, provoking laughter from the nobility, and an incredulous disappointment in the Baron.
With a short chuckle, Castian shook his head, tapping his staff on the ground three times, and pulling his arms to either side whispering, “Reflecta”, wherein two exact replicas of the Elf were conjured into existence beside him. The squire froze, and Castian ushered himself and his clones to surround the boy. As they did, the boy was amazed, never seeing magic before. “Today, I’ll teach you how to fight a Wizard. That’ll give you some good experience for the future, Samuel.”
To Samuel, there was no distinguishing between the three people surrounding him by appearance. They were all exactly identically dressed, and spaced about 2 meters from himself and each other. Closing further, Castian raised his staff overhead, and moved to strike Samuel on the top of the head. In perfect unison, so did his mirrored images.
Samuel brought his shield up to defend on his right and his training sword up to parry on his left, phasing through both figments’ staves. Realizing that they were not physical, he quickly brought his shield and sword to his front a second too late to block a strike to his head, dazing him for a second before he whipped his sword into Castian’s side, producing a satisfying thwack as Castian lurched backwards. “Good reflexes,” said Castian, as Samuel retreated back a few meters.
There was some cooing and clapping, and a little jeering from Castian’s compatriots High Paladin Zophiel Zarall and Drace Seasinger. Castian smiled and waved at them as he nonchalantly picked himself back up and reshuffled the images—rotating his wrists, Castian had the images recalled back to him, flickering out of existence; and as he started to strafe around Samuel, five bodies seemed to walk into existence, positioned at varying distances, with some stopping in place along what looked to be his path, and others bowing out form his left and right.
Eventually, there were five total bodies staring intently at Samuel from different directions and distances. “That was a good reaction to this spell, Samuel. It’s called, Mirror Image.” As Castian continued to speak, all of the images started to move their mouths in unison. “It’s an illusion which creates a suggestion in a person’s mind that there are actually multiple targets.” Castian and his images gripped their staves like they were spears, keeping a good length extended outward.
But as he watched, he couldn’t pinpoint Castian, but he imagined the closer ones weren’t him.
Castian continued with his lecture: “The images do not really exist. But if you don’t know which is real, the images will force you to at least defend yourself. If you’re quick…” Castian pats his side, “then you might be able to deal with a couple and react quickly enough to figure out the trick if they’re being used offensively. If you’re trying to figure out which one’s the real one when on the offensive, you will have a hard time in melee, and the trick to dealing with Wizards is that the more time you give them to prepare, the less likely you are to succeed in combat with them. So, find me quickly.”
And with that, all five bodies charged, with the first two coming in one right behind the other. Samuel hunched over and kept his shield forward. The first body thrust their staff directly into the center of Samuel’s body, and he stepped out of its way, keeping himself positioned on the thrust staff. It occurred to him that, it’s better to evade than defend if possible—but right as he was feeling confidant in his assertion, he felt an impact smash into his back, causing him to lurch forward, spin, and regain his balance to face what must have been the real Castian who intentionally positioned himself closer to him to take advantage of the first feint with a follow-up strike. Eager to counterattack, Samuel raised his sword and took a step toward the body, cleaving right through it. A half-second later, he was buffeted with another blast in his chest, catching one of the other bodies pointing a finger directly at him. He doubled over.
Without waiting for Samuel to catch his breath, Castian recalled his images, and began speaking once more in a kind, educational tone: “Wizards will likely keep a distance when they use these images for defense, and this expectation makes incorporating them into an attack work well under the right circumstances. Stereotypically, spellcasters do not get into weapon range of a combatant. However, if one happens to have more than a modicum of martial skill, then they can flip a fight on its head pretty easily.” Having recalled his images once more, Castian touches his thumb to a ring on his index finger, and a dense mist starts to envelope his feet.
Standing himself back up, Samuel positions his sword at the ready, intently listening to Castian’s words. “Unfotunately,” Castian went on, “the attack you received was meant to look and feel like a physical impact from a staff—I even had my mirrored image synchronize its swing with my Magic Missile to give this appearance—but since you didn’t really have your eyes on the image, it made the deception easier to pull off.” The mist at this point had risen and billowed out, almost completely obscuring Castian at this point, expanding in all directions. “Wizards can and will incorporate illusions with their attacks to increase the successes of their or their companions’ attacks and decrease the successes of those of their opponents. Keep that in mind when you are in a precarious position, like say, your opponent is attacking you from a distance, and you have to close in and take them out, but they’re obscured by a Fog Cloud spell.” As he says this, half of the arena has been indeed obscured by a silvery cloud. “This will be my last lesson of the day, Samuel, but I hope it’s illustrated some interesting strategies Wizards can utilize with the Mirror Image spell.”
Samuel holds fast for a few moments, pondering what he’d seen thus far—the way Castian moved when he cast his spells, and the ease with which Castian could overwhelm him given the opportunity. The take away, Samuel reasoned, was to never let a Wizard get the jump on him. As he cautiously closed distance, he saw figures in the mist. Three of them. Illusions. Probably an obvious bait, he thought. But how can I possibly deal with this situation alone like this? He turned to his superior, the Baron, who had been shaking his head at the boy’s lack of confidence this entire time, but was now intently following Samuel’s moves with genuine intrigue. Noticing Samuel’s hesitation, the Baron took his hands and made a gesture resembling a signal to charge. Samuel nodded, and leaped into the fog, running at top speed, on guard for any attack, from all sides, scanning for an opportunity to strike. It was extremely hard to see through the thick haze, and in a few moments he charged through the other side, barely stopping before the line that marked the other side of the ring. Puzzled, he turned back and investigated his surroundings. As he narrowed his eyes and waited just outside, the mist suddenly started to dissipate, and there was nobody to be found in the entire ring, until a second longer when Castian and his body doubles suddenly materialized. Smiling, Castian bowed to him and the images disappeared. “You’re a brave person, Samuel. I actually didn’t expect you to charge in like that, and you caught me off-guard. It might not have looked like much to you, but I had to use a trinket of mine to turn invisible—you almost took my head off!”
The two shook hands and walked out of the ring. The Marquis called Castain and his companions over to inquire about their travels and abilities as the sun started to set in the sky.
Sitting down for dinner, the Marquis had laid out a lovely feast of various dishes with meats and fruits and vegetables—the entirety of which looking very foreign to the planeswalkers save for a few of the larger roasted animals. It would seem that no matter the plane, preparing meat was more or less the same. There was some banter for a good half hour, as the Marquis introduced Zophiel, Drace, and Castian to the various stewards and service staff in his great manor. At this point, however, the eating started, and the first central topic of conversation began after the Marquis had whet his tongue with a glass of fruity port that Castian had been eyeing as the fragrance wafted all the way from the other side of the table.
“Castian, wonderful performance out there,” he began, beaming at him and then directing his eyes towards the Baron. “Where did you learn that fascinating spell—they were all fascinating, I mean no disrespect towards you—the one that made facsimiles of yourself?” He took another sip and placed the elegant glass beside his plate of roast beast. Castian nodded and pointed his head towards the room where he’d stashed his rucksack.
“Ah, yes. I learned it from a grimoire I came across in a large city called Clara. The city has long been abandoned by those who created it—the architecture is distinctly Drow, yet the city was on the surface. This grimoire resided in a what I surmised to be an abandoned study, and I suspect it encompassed a Drow Wizard’s life’s work, along with some twenty journals of notes. I set about pouring over it, and the first spell I took to learning was Mirror Image, the spell you are talking about.” He looked over to Zophiel as he finished his explanation, hoping that he didn’t reveal too much of their travels. He’d been scolded for being a bit too revealing at times. She nodded slightly, and he smiled, helping himself to a slice of meat.
“I’ve never heard of Clara. Drow, you say? But they preferred the surface? Intriguing. I’ve only met a few Drow. All merchants, and all very polite.” He took another sip. “What made you pick this spell? Wizards in my experience are usually very particular about what they learn and don’t learn. Very opinionated folk, them.”
Amused, Castian started, “My mother, and my people, are from a place called Azor. Everyone who grew up in Azor has an aptitude for magic, but they don’t focus on weaponized or combat-oriented spellcraft. Azor is a huge metropolis—similar to this bustling city—and the primary kinds of spells people learn are utilitarian in nature. So when I went to explore Clara, and came across this grimoire, it wasn’t anything that my contemporaries had ever seen. Sure, it was comprehensible and feasible, but not anything my people would spend the time to learn. So, I decided to learn the correct way to cast this spell first—something that I would never have been exposed to among the Azorians. Maybe this isn’t the first rendition of this concept ever in the multiverse, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the first my people have come across the spell.” Castian paused before going further, taking a sip of the fruity alcoholic beverage in front of him. The smell sat in his throat and nostrils for far longer than he’d expect it to.
The Marquis nodded and continued to ask more questions of the Elf, and in turn, Castian finally offered to let him read the contents of the journals (with the aide of a magical monocle that lets the wielder read any language).
Getting up to produce the journals, which he’d hope to share at the Academy on the other side of the city, and then flipping through their contents to find the exact sections related to Mirror Image, explaining that he actually hadn’t gotten around to reading all the notes. After skimming the notes, he paused for several moments. At the end of this long pause, he thoughtfully exclaimed that the noted indicated that the spell he’d learned was actually a highly augmented version of another spell of the same name, and the Drow (which he had mentioned after reading the title seemed to be named Krail Und’vosh) who had written the grimoire simply referred to it as Mirror Image in the grimoire itself since it was personalized to his own casting technique. Castian was quite pensive at this point, but, seeing that the Marquis was even more visibly enthralled by this twist, he asked that he take a look at these notes immediately before he let him do so. The Marquis seemed to detect a salience to the situation, and nodded, and Castian excused himself to another room, cracking the journal open, incanting the spell for Comprehend Languages.
—Excerpt from Dawnbringers: Tales of the Planeswalkers, from a copy of The Divine Record
Krail Und’vosh was perhaps one of the most powerful Wizards in the city of Clara, a surface-dwelling Drow city that had been abandoned for a few centuries before Castian, with the help of a tiefling Satyr named Earl, and his companion High Paladin Zophiel Zarall, came across the ruins. Krail was accomplished, but certainly wasn’t the only spellcaster in the city. He was, however, the most prodigious Metamagician, able to alter and tweak spells enough to fix those that less-experienced casters were attempting to create, or develop entirely new and more effective versions of other spells—which would then be adopted by the populace as the new standard for that spell. Mirror Image was a spell concept that was used by dozens of cultures in the multiverse, including several Drow cultures, but rarely did it produce more than two or three “clones like shadow”, which would unerringly mimic how the caster moved, and could only separate a meter from each other. Krail took great interest in this spell, and produced several variants, and is perhaps one of the first to do so, however his name is not credited with any of the variants of the Mirror Image spell known today.
Mirror Image as was standard for the Clarans based on Krail’s teaching, produced a maximum of eight fully-functional illusory copies of the caster, suggested to the mind of the target or targets, which could be made to move independently from one another, as long as each one stayed within 2 meters of at least one other copy, one of which needed to be at most 2 meters from the caster themself. The copies could not affect anything physically.
The spell has no material components, making it a much more economic spell to experiment with. The verbal component changes with each culture’s interpretation of the concept of a reflection, with Krail choosing to keep the ancient Drow Zstz’r that was part of the original Mirror Image spell, while Castian’s Comprehend Languages spell transliterated the word to Ancient Sylvan during his studies, which the permanent Tongues spell Castian had active translated to Reflecta when he spoke it aloud in the presence of the many Humans who spoke a dialect of the common Human language there. Somatically, one who would cast the spell would place their arms out to their sides during the incantation, and allow the amount of illusions they wished to manifest to appear in any position that was allowed by the constraints of the spell.
This spell rarely had any ill effects if it was misapplied or mis-incanted, though a few creative Wizards attempting to mix Mirror Image’s inherent nature of being a suggested illusion with another spell called Phantasmal Killer that created illusory images that lethally and psychically damaged their target, succeeded in creating illusions that could not be struck, but could still cause harm to the target. This spell was outlawed and labeled forbidden after its successful iteration and proof-of-concept by the local Claran government. Krail noted in his journal that he condemns the censorship of magical concepts out of fear, stating that this was an intriguing and possibly useful avenue of thought which could be applied to help rather than harm if more research was allowed.
Due to Mirror Image’s non-reliance on high concentration, many illusory effects can be used in tandem, which can invite an inexperienced mage to then become mentally encumbered with many effects occurring at once, incapable of doing much else without losing their grip on their spells. The worst effects this causes is disorientation, but if used in combat, this can be very deleterious.