A night without nightmares,was a relief. I had some dreams, vague visions, but nothing like yesterday. I counted that as a success. A quick wash and a rummage in the laundry hamper produced a decidedly more alert and prepared mage. I bound up my hair with the same charm as usual, as I was doing so my stomach grumbled. I grinned, I had forgotten to eat in all the excitement of yesterday. A quick look out the window told me it was just after dawn, plenty of time before I had to be at work.
I took my time, enjoying the early morning air. I had timed it just right to see the street cleaners with their staves, fulfilling their duties, I relaxed my control on my othersense. The street came alive with light. The residual traces of the people that had used them. Faint swirls and eddies in the air above. The cleaner’s staves shone. The complex weave was a delicate tracery of tiny strands and nodes, so tightly woven that I could spend days studying it. The enchantment was also aesthetically very striking. It evoked a feeling of cleanliness. The great many active threads were weaving themselves along the streets, pushing the dirt on a wave ahead of them. I tore my eyes away and pushed my other sense back down to normal levels. Breakfast called me, the scents of frying bacon and sausages carried well in this quiet early morning air.
The café I had gone to with Sophia was just opening, the very same waitress was working, taking the first few orders of the day. My feet took me inside without consulting my brain, drawn by the smell of such deliciousness.
“Take a seat please, I’ll be over in a moment to take your order,” the waitress said, her brown eyes tired. She must have been here early.
“Thank you,” I said with a smile.
She returned the smile wearily.
This time I chose a small table near the kitchen door. It was empty in here. I seated myself in one of the comfortable chairs then I glanced over the menu. The faintly glowing words, tempted me to use my sight again, but I resisted. My stomach had already made up its mind before the rest of me could.
“What will you have sir?” the waitress asked as her shadow fell over me.
“Could I have the bacon, sausages and eggs please?” I asked, “Oh and a tea too?”
“Of course you can, we have a wide selection of teas. Do you have a preference?” she queried
“Not really,” I answered, choices of teas were beyond me this early in the morning.
“Okay then, your breakfast won’t be long and I’ll be over with your tea. I’ll pick something, if you don’t like it, we can always try something else,” she sauntered off with what could optimistically be called a spring, but more realistically a lurch would describe it better.
Within moments she was back with a small ceramic pot and a cup. Steam was curling from the spout, the delightful no-nonsense scent of black tea was wafting gently from it.
“Here you go. This one is my favorite. A strong tea infused with a vigor charm. It’s grown in enchanted soil. It stays fresh for a long time, as well as tasting great,” her voice nearly vibrating with eagerness.
“It smells wonderful. Thank you,” I said. I breathed deeply of the invigorating fragrance. It smelt perfect.
She rushed off to the kitchen. I guessed to fetch my breakfast.
While I waited I reached out to pour a cup of the tea.My left hand grasped the smooth handle of the pot. It was surprisingly cool, as I poured the steam rose in gentle eddies from the cup.
The waitress was just coming out of the kitchen carrying a large plate.
“Here you go, I’ll be back in a moment to take your payment,” she said as she placed my order in front of me.
My stomach chose this time to demand food, I agreed. I picked up the utensils in front of me and attacked the bacon, lightly crisped, it was perfect. I lost myself momentarily, in the act of eating. Obviously, as I wasn’t paying attention, my new and fairly annoying sight chose that instant to manifest.
My food glowed. My tea unsurprisingly had glimmers of what felt like the vigor charm, but my food glowing was a slight shock. I knew the meat would likely be kept in a chill-charmed room. This glow seemed to be something else. The glimmers had a depth that I would never have guessed, while it was faint, it was pervasive. It was safe, maybe I just hadn’t been able to truly see the world until now.
The glowing food tasted exactly the same as before. What the glow must have been was the essence of bacon, I thought.
That thought made me attempt to laugh. Laughing with bacon in your mouth is not a good plan. I started choking.
The waitress had heard me and was rushing over. She smacked me on the back, hard. The offending bacon flew out of my throat. Sweet air flowed in. I gasped out my thanks.
She nodded, an indecisive look passed over her face before she said, “That will be two knacks please.”
I held out my credit shard, a tiny touch of magic transferred the money to the business’ account. Their payment device was behind the counter. The touch just said how much and to where it went.
‘Nearly dying ignobly on bacon would have put a lesser man off his breakfast, but I am made of sterner stuff.’ I thought while ignoring my shaking hands.
I wrapped my hands around the warmth of my teacup, few gentle sips. The warmth coated my tongue bringing with it the earthy, faintly nutty taste of the tea, a strong aftertaste of nutmeg lingered in my mouth. It left me with the greatest feeling of being in the woods in autumn, the crunch of leaves, the scents in the air. My shaking vanished. I could feel the vigor seeping into me from the tea. This was good tea.
I put down my cup and resumed eating, splitting my focus between eating, drinking the wonderful tea and keeping my sight under control. It reduced my enjoyment only slightly. There was bacon, I would have to be dead to not enjoy it. I finished quickly. I stood up feeling strong and ready to face the day, bacon incident not being counted. A nod to the waitress who had once again saved me, this time from bacon instead of the curious probing questions of a child, then I walked slowly through the door.
“Good morning Tristan,” Jase greeted me as I walked into Rysan’s office.
“Morning Jase, do we have any news on the seniors?” I asked. I took a look around while we spoke. Jase was sat at Rysan’s desk, Orb hovered around him. A mess of shard littered the desk, Orb extended faint threads to them, shifting data around was my guess.
“Actually we have. The conclave has ended. Rysan should be on his way back soon,” Jase said, a smirk creased his lips, merriment glittered in his eyes.
“Well at least it’s over, any ideas on what it was about?” I asked, ignoring his amusement.
“No, seniors only. I’m sure we’ll find out what we need to know when hes back,” Jase said his smirk fading slightly.
I didn’t ask about the haunted look that had appeared on his face, some things I just didn’t need to know, one of them was his past, although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.
“Orb tells me you have developed reading. You can handle it?” Jase asked. Concern tinged his voice.
“Apart from the visions and a couple of control hiccups, I’m doing alright with it, I think,” I answered hesitantly.
“Good I will inform the wizards, they will plan your training accordingly,” Jase waved his left hand in a sweeping gesture. “Do you know when you are back at the stone guild?”
“No, Lyphia was vague. Did you know about the guild master?” I asked
“Yes, we used to work together, he’s actually one of the reasons I got assigned here. You know about the project, don’t you?” Jase said.
“No I don’t,” I answered.
“I won’t go into to the details, but the general idea is, to promote magic. To show its use in everyday life. The wizards don’t want to just rule, they want to usher in an era where there is no needless suffering. No hunger. No disease. It’s idealistic, but it could be possible. The project takes place here and in Greenlaw. Think of here as a trial run. The few other areas are far less developed due to the waves damage,” Jase briefly explained. His doubts were plain in his tone, but so was his hope. He wanted it to work.
“That is ambitious,” I hedged.
“Yes it is, but it’s early days yet. The mages have only recently gotten established. The foundry was a setback. It never worked as well as some of the other trial designs. We have so few talented enchanters so we couldn’t spare them to work there, but look how far we have come in the last few years,” Jase’s movements had gotten more pronounced as he spoke, his excitement was infectious. He had stood up and walked closer, almost pacing as he tried to convey the majesty of the project.
“Yeah we have come far. You brought up the foundry, do we have any leads on what happened?” I asked forcefully, I had heard nothing more about the explosion, the silence was bothering me.
“A few, nothing substantial yet. Don’t you worry, my boy, we will get to the bottom of it,” Jase said sympathetically, his hand came to rest lightly on my shoulder giving me a gentle squeeze before letting go.
“Thank you Jase. I need to know that so many didn’t die for nothing. I failed to save them, but I will not let them have died for nothing,” my eyes welled up as I spoke my fists clenched, the pain of failure burned through me. The cost of it, still staggers me. I brought up a fist to dash the tears from my eyes.
Jase was clearly uncomfortable with my outburst, he cleared his throat and turned away briefly. Giving me a moment to collect myself.
“Jase, what am I doing today?” I asked my voice slightly choked up still.
Jase turned back his smile creeping back slowly. “You have advanced enchanting today. You may remember I fast tracked your training, enchantment, battle effects, crafting and such. As you develop, you may get more say over the direction of your training. I would give you some alchemy, but you never showed any aptitude for it,” Jase’s smile was huge by this point.
I groaned, Jase would never let me live down my early failures, it was one of the few that could be looked back on with amusement though at least by others. I had been green for a month.
“I have no idea how you messed up that badly,” he stuttered out between laughs. “ A simple cloth dye. You were gr -gre- green,” he finally gave in to the laughter, tears streamed down his face as he hooted.
I gritted my teeth and waited as patiently as I could. It was a few moments till Jase could finish explaining my days duties to me.
“Your training will be with enchanter Fion for your enchanting. Your stone guild placement should assist with enchanting and your crafting.” Jase informed me, his face still wet and red from his little fit of amusement at my expense.
“I have never heard of this enchanter before,” I stated.
“He’s just come to Westhaven, he’s old and doesn’t enjoy having students. He designed most of the systems we use today. I told him about you and your abilities with golems. He’s curious, but I couldn’t get more out of him. Don’t annoy him. He’s an unpleasant person to deal with,” Jase stopped briefly to look at me sternly.
I looked him straight in the eye and nodded seriously, I wanted him to know I had taken his warning.
“He’s brilliant, focus on what he says and does. Please bear in mind that he’s rather odd, like most of the older mages,” Jase continued.
I smiled, remembering the guildmaster.
“He should be at the academy, but he could be anywhere. He won’t wear a pendant and he doesn’t answer to anyone, but the wizards, so no complaining to me, understood?” he asked almost off hand, he was already walking back to Rysan’s chair.
Yes I understand Jase,” I said before turning towards the door.
“Oh Tristan, Rysan will be back soon, so I may not be around headquarters as much. Do stop by the academy, I have enjoyed working with you again,” Jase said plaintively.
I turned to look over my shoulder, he was looking hard at the glyphscreen, I couldn’t see his face. I didn’t know what to say to that.
“Of course Jase,” I said, my default response.
Why was Jase sad, what was I missing here? I asked myself before going through the door.
The way to the academy was busy, it was still early in the morning. There were a great many people on the streets, clearly going to and from work. So many were smiling which I took as a good sign. Clouds drifted across the sky slowly, occasionally blocking the sun, creating shadows that ran through the streets like children playing.
The academy loomed above me, despite coming here fairly frequently lately, the prison of my own choice intimidated me still.
The entrance was well lit again, as I walked along the smooth hard stone, I noticed more of the glyph screens on the walls were active, more than I had seen in my years here. At the reception desk was a real person, I almost walked past her out of habit. I had never seen anyone man this desk, Jase had been waiting for me, what was her reason?
“Excuse me Sir you can’t go down that hall,” she said calmly, her dark eyes firmly locked on me.
I stopped in my tracks.
“I’m Mage Representative Tristan Sodden, I’m here to see Enchanter Fion, he is expecting me,” I replied firmly
She tucked a stray lock of her brown hair behind an ear before speaking. “Enchanter Fion may well be expecting you, but I can’t let you down there without notifying him or checking your clearance,”
“Who are you and why are you here?” I finally asked. It had been bothering me.
“Me? well I’m Kristina Iris, I’m part of the enchanters team,” she checked the glyphscreen, her eyes widened in surprise “I’m sorry Sir I didn’t mean to disturb you, I was only doing my job,” she continued, gradually getting more upset.
“You still haven’t told me what you are doing here? And why are you snivelling at me?” I asked bewildered, crying women. Again.
“Sir, I’m sorry, Sir. I’m here with the enchanters team, to help preparations for the restoration of the great road,” she sobbed out.
I walked closer to the desk to offer some comfort, she recoiled as if I was some sort of monster.
“No, Sir I’m fine, sorry Sir,” she babbled out in what sounded like fear.
“Why are you scared of me?” I asked gently
“It’s nothing Sir, please I’m just being silly, you are cleared, you have full access to this facility,” she rushed the words.
“Can you please tell me where to go?” I enquired.
She nodded before tapping lightly on the glyphscreen. A glowing green wisp appeared to my right.
“That will take you to the right place Sir,” she said her voice still affected by the emotion of a moment ago.
“Thank you,” I replied softly.
The wisp seemed to detect my intent to move and went ahead of me. I did the only thing I could. I followed it.
My path through the academy, was swift thanks to the wisp, the change in this place startled me. There was light everywhere, glowing screens in the walls displayed various abstract images that after about the sixth one I realised was a colour coded map of the building.
The wisp led me higher than I had been before, the ninth level, senior mages residence. The hall was sumptuous, with old style paintings of landscapes places I had never seen. I stopped at one. It was a scene of the ocean, small scaled figures danced on the crests of some of the waves. I leaned closer, the scent of the oils in the paint was faint, a sharp sting in my nose, I could see the figures were female, they must have been sprites, water spirits.
The wisp had carried on without me a few paces ahead it stopped in front of a door. Wooden and old, the varnish had chipped in places. I could hear a mans voice clearly through the door.
“What do you mean you have sent a murderer up to see me girl?” He screeched, “Pull yourself together I don’t care for your nonsense.”
He was clearly talking to someone, but I couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation. I contemplated knocking, but decided against it. What ever was going on in there I wanted no part of.
“Girl, did you say Tristan?” he asked. Then nothing for a moment. “Jase’s boy?” silence again.
Who was he talking to about me. I wondered.
“His file? For magic’s sake, make sense Kristina. What about his file?” another lull. “That boys no murderer, you stupid girl. He’s a mage, he walked out of a nightmare and you treat him like that. Jase told me all about it. Stop your blubbering. Enough,” he shouted the last loud enough to make me start.
I very nearly lost my balance when the door opened suddenly. Standing in front of me was a giant of a man, well over six feet tall, shoulders that could carry me easily. A compact frame that still had a respectable amount of muscle despite his age. He had to be in his late fifties judging by the deep wrinkles on his face. His mouth was set in a harsh line.
“What are you doing? Listening at my door?” he shouted, his voice was strong with an accent I couldn’t place.
“I’m sorry sir, I heard a conversation I didn’t want to interrupt you,” I said apologetically. I had to take a small step back to see his face clearly.
His bright blue eyes shone down at me as if searching for something. “Well no harm done. Don’t be snivelling at me boy, I get enough of it from that knacking pixie downstairs,” he said firmly with a shrug of his massive shoulders.
“I’m Tristan Sodden,sir I was sent for training with you, I believe,” I stated as calmly as I could. I met his eyes, the glow in them was intense, a strange blending of colours that somehow enhanced the blue of his natural colouring
“Your Jase’s boy, he’s spoke about you for years. I’m Enchanter Mage Fion Devin if you want to get all fancy about it. Don’t. Just call me Fion,” he said before stepping back into the room. “Come in and dismiss that wisp,” his arm swept in front of him as he turned allowing me passage and a clear indicator of where he wanted me to go.
I took a moment to dismiss the wisp with a faint thread of magic, dispersing its matrix.
A step took me inside.
The room was decorated in the old style, like the paintings everything was hand made. The furniture was beautiful, each piece crafted with care and delicate magics. A door in the far wall told me it wasn’t just a room, but a suite, similar in function to my apartment. Where my place was basic, this room was luxurious. There was a large desk of a rich red wood just off the center of the room with a matching chair. The walls were covered in some patterned cloth some how affixed to the wall, also in reds. The carpet was thick and deep except in a large oval around the desk. My inspection of the room was interrupted by Fion. He had closed the door and was walking quickly to the desk. A few crystal disks were upon it, along with various things I had no name for.
“You done?” Fion asked impatiently. his large hands were shifting a few items on the desk around.
“Yes sorry,” I said. I had stood stock still while I was gawking at his home.
“Stop with the apologies, I’m not interested,” he said turning to look at me. His white eyebrows lowered in a frown. “What did Jase tell you? Be honest with me, I don’t care about pretty lies,”
“Jase told me that you were hard to deal with, unpleasant and if I had any problems not to complain to him, because you only answer to the wizards,” I said shifting my stance slightly uncomfortably.
Fion laughed a deep rumbling laugh.
“That Jase and his jokes,” he said. “He’s done that since he was a boy, never you mind what he said. In some ways he’s right. I can be hard to deal with. I don’t care. You were sent here to me, you will put up with it,” his tone was still amused, “You are here because Jase thinks you should be here. That and that alone is the reason. The wizards don’t command me. I go where I want, do what I want. It just so happens that I enjoy what I do and it’s useful, so I occasionally deign to take a wizards commission, you following me boy?” he barked
“I think so. You knew Jase when he was young?” I asked. I hadn’t ever really thought of Jase as a boy before.
“Thats what you ask?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Who do you think trained him? I was Jase’s master, back when being a master was something different. So what do you know of enchanting? No. Don’t answer me. Throw it away,” he said with a smile.
“What?” the revelation about Jase and Fion was one thing, but surely my enchanting skills weren’t that bad.
“You heard me, throw it out, you’ve done wild enchants, I can hear it, whispering to me. That means you can handle the free form,” his smile grew with every word as did my confusion.
“Free form? I asked completely clueless.
“We will get to that in a moment. Let me see your bracer,” Fion commanded.
I walked closer to him, crossing the intervening space quickly. His hand came up and caught my left arm. raising it closer to his eyes I had to twist slightly to avoid it hurting.
“This is a beauty, now what did you do? No hang on,” he muttered quietly.
I didn’t know if he was talking to me or not. I erred on the side of caution and remained silent, he wasn’t even looking at me all his attention was focused on my shield enchantment.
“Hope, no, resist, no. Defence ha, tricksy, and what are these?” he was turning his head looking at my bracer from all angles. “Disruption, diversion. Transference,”
How could he understand my bracer when I was the one who made it and didn’t have a clue.
Fion let go with no warning at all. My arm just dropped taking the rest of me with it. He caught me, set me back up.
“Clever work, telling really,” he continued in his murmuring, not looking at me at all. He shuffled to the other side of the desk, feeling his way along, till his fingers touched a strange looking metal rod covering in faint scratches.
“Telling what?” I asked. I was confused again.
“What? he shouted His hands were feeling the etchings on the rod.
“You said “telling really,” what does that mean?” I asked
Fion just looked blankly at me.
“I said no such thing,” he stopped tilted his head as if listening to something only he could hear.
I was beginning to think this is what Jase had meant about difficult to deal with.
Fion’s eyes seemed to come back into focus as he shook his head. “ You paying attention boy?” he asked impatiently, the rod still in his hands. A faint feeling of power ebbed and flowed around him.
My eyes widened as I realised what he was doing, he was enchanting as we spoke, complex layered enchantment at that.
“Yes I’m paying attention,” I said quickly covering my shock
“Well got over here so we can have the lesson, you may not have noticed, but I’m old, I don’t have time for waiting on people,” he said, his smile coming back, his bright white teeth shone.
I walked over to the odd mage, standing next to him.
“Free-form should be easy for you, but we will see. Take that ball there,” he instructed pointing at a small metal ball about an inch across sitting on the desk.
I grabbed it, it was smooth and cold, the silver shine of the metal reflecting my face in the warm light of the room.
“Got it, good. Now forget all that element rubbish you’ve been taught. If you can handle wild magic, you can handle real enchantment,” Fion said with a hint of superiority.
“So what do I do?” I asked more and more unsure of my own knowledge.
“Don’t just stand there, put some magic in it,” he said exasperated, “ and stop looking at me. I’m not going to hold your hand. You have been told you can do it, so just do it.”
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked, my frustration rising. I nearly snarled
“Thats more like it, I won’t teach someone without a spine boy,” Fion said approvingly. “This is easy, you make what your magic tells you to make, listen to it.”
My confusion and frustration were rising even higher I looked down at the small metal object in my hand with even less of a clue of what I was doing than when I started.
“Boy, stop fucking around, I haven’t got all day,” Fion seemed really angry now, he had put down his own work. He grabbed the back of my head with his left hand, it was so large it covered most of it. He pulled my head round to face him. “Put the magic in now, can’t you hear it screaming at you?” Fion was shouting in my face, his eyes wild, spittle flew from his mouth, he let go suddenly. All the energy drained from his face.
The shock had triggered my reading. The room exploded in a wash of light, threads wove through the very substance of the walls. Streamers seemed to be wrapped around Fion, as he sagged, the colours were all washed out around him, on the edge of hearing were notes of pure sound coming from the streamers. A musical symphony the likes of which I had never heard.
Fion was leaning heavily, his arms on the desk holding him up. A smile as bright as the new dawn appeared on his face. “l knew you had it in you,” he said triumphantly. “Now put your sight to the task at hand, and enchant that bauble,” he tilted his head to the ball, I had forgotten I was holding.
Turning my attention to the globe, filled my mind with a whispering of music, a tune that felt familiar. The magic boiled around me, as a smile bloomed on my face, I suddenly understood.
The tune wasn’t music, it was magics voice, resonating with my own knowledge.
A small thread of power wove down my arm into the orb, twining as if dancing to the music. The tune ascended in volume and complexity as I worked. More threads wove in and out of my existing one, nodes forming as the core concepts slotted into place. Sight, sharing, bond and memory sunk in deep, the knowledge of just how to tie them in flowed into me. It was done, the weave shimmered in my sight, its voice faint, but clear.
“Don’t go getting a big head now, boy, I helped guide the music, but you did well, few ever hear it,” Fion cautioned and praised, a grudging respect apparent in his gruff voice.
“What was that?” I asked forcing my oversight down, the colours and music fading to nothing.
“That was real enchantment, not like the academy teaches, but how it’s meant to be done. Your little bauble was clever. I expect to see you again. Now leave,” Fion said harshly his face set in firm lines.
I left carrying my ball.