We went down to the meal hall, I hadn’t used it much as an aspirant I’d spent most of my time in my cell, but it was a large room filled with benches and tables there were a few mages and their students scattered about. Lunch was a short but satisfying meal, Sophia and Airis were quiet as if they had much on their minds, a few times Sophia opened her mouth as if to speak then closed it again with a thoughtful expression.
“Say it,” I said to her.
“Say what?” she asked.
“Whatever is on your mind. I’ve been watching you.”
She blushed at that, then asked, “Where was Lyphia when I woke up?”
I looked at her, she looked back innocently, her green eyes bright. A faint smile, very faint. I could be imagining it, but no. There it was a glimmer of mischief in her eyes.
“You already know,” I said, I could feel my face burning.
“Does that mean we get to keep her?” Sophia said, fighting her laughter down.
I had no words.
Sophia erupted in peals of laughter. Even Airis was smiling.
“Right, this is serious. I don’t want you to be teasing Lyphia about this, I really like her,” I said fiercely.
“Calm down Tristan, we would never…” Sophia trailed off, lost for words.
I thought about my reaction for a moment. It was slightly overblown and aggressive.
“I’m sorry,that came out wrong. I would prefer if you didn’t tease Lyphia about our relationship, its new,” I said apologetically.
“Don’t worry Tristan. We won’t say anything, we want you to be happy,” Airis said.
“Yep, didn’t mean to upset you,” Sophia said. She was nodding as she spoke.
“Good then, if everyone is done…let’s find Jase.”
I had no idea where to find Jase. It had been a day or so since we had gotten back from wherever we had been, he should be all better now, we mages heal quickly. I took a wild guess, which was his lab. It turned out he wasn’t there but I needed to have a good look around to make sure. as we were poking around the scattered debris of collected junk that collects in a mages workroom, something moved.
I pulled power into my hand, and called out, “Sophia Airis, get in the centre of the room.”
I was on high alert, tension thrummed through my body as I scanned the room. My eyes were wide, looking for anything, movement.
I activated my reading, light almost blinded me.
Note to self, don’t use very sensitive magical sight in a Mage’s work room, I thought.
Chunks of threads bound into enchantments blazed in every corner of the room. The natural flows of energy were distorted, drained into too many devices to count. But there, in one pile was something that moved.
I readied my mind for some high level magic, for me at least. A binding.
The thing moved, how I don’t know, now that I got a good look at it as it emerged from the piles of junk.
It was a book, large and square. Thick, it had chains wrapped around it, that bound it shut. It fought against its captivity in snarling savage movements.
“Don’t move kids,” I called.
I sent a stream of power, water based, at it. drowning it is raw magics.
Its movement slowed but didn’t stop.
“Release me,” it whined.
It talks, oh my, will the wonders never cease.
I stood stunned in open mouthed shock for a moment
“Why are you bound?” I asked warily.
“’Tis my nature to test all who seek knowledge, I bite. That boy, Jase Aleres, bound me. He has not renewed the binding. I seek a new student,” it said, in a dry rustle of pages.
I looked from the book to Sophia and Airis, Airis had shifted to his stone form and was standing over Sophia shielding her from all harm.
“Are you dangerous unbound? If you are I will bind you here and now,” I asked resolutely. I couldn’t have a biting book near my students, but the temptation of knowledge was strong.
“No, I merely test. I swear I will do no harm to you and yours,” it said, I could see an eye shape embossed on its front cover, part of the pattern.
I wavered for a moment before deciding to trust my sight, there was a wavering in the magic as it swore its oath.
I relaxed my hold on my power.
“We will take you from here, but I make no promises beyond that.”
That is better than I would get from anyone else, I thank you.”
“Airis, could you pick up the book please,” I instructed.
The grinding as Airis shifted from his golem body came from behind me. The now boy walked over to the book, shot a nervous glance at me.
He picked up the book and tucked it under his arm.
“If we are don’t here we still need to find Jase, I need to make sure he is well.
“The boy is damaged?” the book asked.
“He was he should be fine now but he isn’t here. So we should ask at the reception. I forgot my mirror and I don’t have my pendant anymore,” I said. I found myself scowling and scratching at my chest as I recalled the events around my pendant.
“Aww, it’s a talking book,” Sophia said. She walked forward to touch it.
“Don’t,” I barked.
She looked at me suddenly frozen in mid movement.
“We don’t know its requirements for a student yet, we should be wary,” I said in what I hoped was a reasonable tone.
“Oh, but look at it, that can’t be comfortable. It’s got chains on it,” she said, her hand inching forwards again.
I could feel a headache growing behind my eye, a Sophia shaped headache.
“Just listen to me, Don’t touch the book,” I said sternly.
“Tristan, it’s a book. what could it possibly do?” she said. her eyes were telling me I was being stupid.
“Lets not find out. Just listen and do as you’re told. You don’t know the dangers of a Mage’s work room, Jase’s worst of all. It’s a bloody mess in here. He should know the risks of that.”
“I did warn him,” the book offered.
“Great, can we go find him now please,” I asked, no I pleaded. a tinge of desperation coloured my voice.
“Yep let’s go find Jase,” Sophia said, she ran to the door. where did she get the energy? I asked myself.
I followed her, Airis coming up behind.
The reception desk held a receptionist that I had never seen before, a young woman, blond. immaculately well dressed in a uniform that echoed but didn’t imitate the mage uniforms. she had purple eyes which intrigued me. I’d heard of them but never seen any.
“I’m sorry sir, I can’t give that information out,” she said apologetically. “ I can leave a message for you though.
She had repeated this several times.
I was gritting my teeth in frustration, also trying not to shout at the poor girl.
Sophia was giggling.
“Sophia do not poke the book,” I said without looking behind me, I knew she would be.
“I’m not,” she said.
“She is,” Airis informed me.
“Airis no one likes a tattle tale,” I said. “Stop gloating Sophia. Now miss, I’m really sorry about this but I need to see him urgently.”
“Sir you have told me this, I can’t give you the information.” the receptionist said.
“Fine, put me through to Orb,” I said with a grimace. Just asking for Orb left a bitter taste in my mouth.
I looked at her a moment, she looked serious. more than one Orb? I asked my self.
“The local Orb, I don’t know any other designation. Does it have a name?
“Yes, the Westhaven Orb, not a real name but its its designation, sir.” She tapped at her screen.
“Tristan, what’s the problem?” Orb said, his voice coming from the desk the receptionist was sat behind.
“Hi Orb,” Sophia said, she even waved.
“Where is Jase?” I asked shortly.
“Where he should be, resting. In his quarters,” Orb said.
“You heard that, Orb has now given me the information, now give me a wisp to take me there,” I said.
A look of indecision crossed her face, she looked between me and the screen on her desk, her fingers hovered for a moment over the display, I knew all she had to do was push a glyph and a wisp would appear.
“It’s fine, please give Tristan what he asks for,” Orb said. “ Tristan could you call in to headquarters when you are available, I know you have been granted a short leave, considering the trials you have been through, but we could do with your help.” There was a far more mortal quality to Orb’s voice when it was acting outside of his official capacity.
“I will think about it,” I said,
“That is all I can ask, for what its worth, I’m sorry I put you in the position I did. I had no control over it, but the words came from me.”
I stood, clenching and unclenching my fists as my chest heaved, my breath grew ragged, memories of the choice that had been forced on me, burned through me.
“You asked, no, ordered me to give up on her, I can’t forgive that so easily,” I forced out through gritted teeth.
“Of course, you can’t. I never expected you to. I apologised because its the right thing to do, and I would change what happened if I could.”
“Apology accepted, but this is not forgotten,” I said, for Sophia’s sake.
“Thank you Tristan. Now I believe you were hunting master Jase, this young lady will help you now,” Orb said.
“There you go,” the receptionist said as she pushed the screen
A golden coloured wisp appeared to our left
Sophia ran after the wisp, Airis looked at me then took off after her too.
I nodded to the receptionist, then followed the children.
I hesitated outside Jase’s door, my hand raised to knock. thoughts of what I could say to him ran through my mind. many possible conversations that needed to be had. I stood frozen.
“Tristan, knock already, I want to see Jase,” Sophia whined.
I turned my head and looked at her.
She smiled and made a knocking gesture.
I couldn’t help but smile back, the other stuff could wait.
“Don’t just stand there boy, walk in.” the book thing said. “What are you waiting for? an invitation. Show some spine. Heh”
I cast my gaze over the book that was tightly held under Airis arm.
“Oh shut up. You have no understanding of what’s happened.” “how is it talking?”
I don’t know. I’m holding it as tightly as I can,” Airis said.
“I don’t talk with my cover, that’s for biting.” the book said. It ruffled its pages with menace.
Menace? How the hell does a book do anything with menace? It’s a book for Star’s sake.
I was saved from having to deal with it.
“Come in” Jase called through the door.
“I told you to walk in” the book said.
I ignored it and opened the door.
Jase’s apartment was identical to mine, although in greens rather than blues. Gentle greens, the carpet was like moss, even the wooden furniture had a green tint. Jase was seated in a deep arm chair in the far corner. His familiar smile was gone, replaced by deep lines. his eye were bright with magic, not with emotion. He looked a shadow of his former self,almost grey with fatigue. No signs of his injuries remained, whether that was from his own healing or a healer I didn’t know.
“Come on,” Jase called. His voice wavered, he sounded like an old man.
I led my little group over to Jase.
“Take a seat. what brings you to me today?”
“Well, for one I wanted to see how you were? you were in a bad way when I last saw you?” I said.
Jase spread his arms, a small but false smile plastered onto his face.
Sophia jumped off the sofa, then ran into Jase’s arms. she snuggled into him.
Jase wrapped his arms around her. he lowered his head and murmured to her.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I could see a tension melt out of Jase.
“Sorry to break up this lovely moment, but the we didn’t come for this. thanks for locking me up alone by the way,” the book said.
“Shut up, Book. Seriously just be quiet.” I snapped
Jase’s eyes widened and the tension came back. He tightened his hold on Sophia
“You don’t know what that book is capable of. You have to take it back.”
“Don’t worry about the book, worry about yourself, we need you back on your feet.” I said.
“No, we will deal with the book. We have much to talk about but that that can wait for now. Sophia is safe. You’re getting better. I know this is a lot to ask, but if you’re well enough, could you keep an eye on Sophia and Airis? I would ask Avery but …” I trailed off uncertainly.
“Avery, how is she?” Jase asked.
“I don’t know, I haven’t been able to ask anyone yet. But it didn’t look good. Her link is gone.”
“Gone? I’ve not seen that since the….” Jase hesitated.
“Yes since the waves.” I looked away. Airis was watching me. he nodded. the node had a bit of information on the waves.
“I need to see her,” Jase said. he pushed Sophia off with a gentle movement and stood. he looked braced his feet and squared his shoulders as a tremor ran along his limbs.
His eyes glowed brighter as he inhaled deeply. a flush of colour washed through him. health and strength seemed to radiate from him.
“Jase, you shouldn’t be doing that. You know the price.” I said.
“Shush, it won’t be a problem for now. its just a bit of help.”
“Enough! Tristan, I know what I’m doing. I will not be lectured by you on caution” Jase said. his features twisted by an anger that wasn’t his own.
Sophia shrank back from him, her eyes wide and her mouth open in shock.
“Reel it in Jase, you’re scaring the girl” the book said,
Jase looked at Sophia, the anger faded.
“I’m sorry Sophia, I didn’t mean to frighten you. I need to see Avery, she is very sick.” Jase said to Sophia.
Sophia nodded and smiled tentatively at him.
Tristan if you need to, I will take them with me, Fion can keep an eye on them while I speak to Avery, I shouldn’t be long,” Jase offered.
“That should be fine,” I looked to Sophia and Airis. “How about it then?”
“Don’t worry, I will keep them out of trouble” the book said.
Airis held it tighter in response.
Sophia looked between Jase and I, before nodding firmly, as if deciding something.
“I hope all goes well. I really need to get to work, the wave has done some damage, and …”
“Have I really only done two official tasks?” I held out my hand and raised my fingers one at a time as I counted. “One, the irrigation system. Two, the gnomes,” I stopped and looked between Jase and Sophia.
“You got promoted to representative, you dealt with the foundry explosion.” Jase pointed out.
“Yes but the foundry wasn’t an official task and the promotion is clearly political. Neither of which are normal mage work, are they?”
“No they aren’t. Things happen. Get used to it. We are the guardians of the people, We do what needs to be done. You know it wasn’t always like that. Its changed for the better but its a fragile change as of yet.” Jase said as he stepped forwards and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Be the example, set the standard for who the mages are now, One day, others will follow in your footsteps, make them work for it. Look at Sophia, she will be your legacy. Don’t worry about how many tasks or some other arbitrary measurements.”
“I get it Jase, I do but I’ve only been on the job a few months. I should really be doing the job as well as what comes up,” I said.
“Go on then, I’ve delayed you long enough. I have my business to attend to.” Jase chuckled.
“Do something interesting and I’ll write a chapter about it,” the book said.
I ignored it and walked to the door.
Sophia and Airis both waved.
I waved back and then left.
I stood outside the academy, the afternoon sun hidden by clouds. The grey light cast a pall over the town. I was unsure where to go. Headquarters would know where I could help the most but Rysan and Orb were there. It was too fresh.
I looked up and down the street, the damage was invisible in normal sight. it wasn’t like the first waves, they had been fully tangible. Like a tidal wave of translucent flame, they had done massive amounts of damage in both planes; physical and magical. This was just a magical event.
I walked through the streets almost at random. seeking someone to help, something to fix. I caught sight of many people going about their day, a few grumbled about the enchantments being disrupted.
“Mage!” a voice from behind me called.
From one of the stores, an old woman stood in the doorway, looking at me, I turned my head to make sure that it was me she was after. There was no one else close enough.
“Get over here Mage, I don’t have all day.” she looked fierce, her own glowing eyes bright.
I walked over.
“What are you waiting for? I’ve got weak walls now, the charms were striped away. fix it,” she told me
I stood staring at her. I opened my mouth to talk but she interrupted me before I could get anything out.
“If you have time to talk, you have time to work.” she stepped back to allow me to enter.
The shop was neat, bare walls currently but I could see the marks left by the shelves. there was nothing inside that gave me a clue about what was sold here.
The woman bustled to a corner and raised her arms. A small dust devil formed in the centre of the room. The cyclone sucked all the dust out of the the edges flagstones. The gaps became visible in short order, but she continued, the surface of the stones smoothed and glyphs lightly graven on the surface appeared. The dust devil veered over to the woman before collapsing, it left a pile of dust in front of her.
“Get to it then mage.” she said as she walked behind the counter at the back out of the store front to what I assumed was the store-room.
I stood looking around for a moment, the clear windows in the front let in sufficient light to see, but not for the close work this would need.
I knelt down, next to the central pattern. I ran my fingers over the stone. I couldn’t feel the markings. They looked like scratches but my fingers could feel only cool stone, no marks, nothing.
I scratched my head, as I glanced around the room for more markings. There was nothing. I took a deep breath and braced myself then I activated my othersight.
The room exploded in light, fractured threads of broken charms. The glyphic markings on the stones, shone sickly. Their light tarnished by a… well I don’t know what. if they had been metal, I would have said they were rusted but it was magic, energy, it shouldn’t be possible. I couldn’t leave them like this. the connectors were in a dangerous level of disarray, thankfully the few concepts involved were undamaged and disconnected from the rest.
The difference between charms enchantments and spells is a fine one. Charms are simple in comparison to enchantments, they often deal with static things, basic, adding a property. Most bindings are technically charms. Enchantments deal with more complex dynamic things, its more a process. Spells are a different level again. I’ve never done a spell, I don’t have the control or the experience but I will get there eventually. Then there are the expressions:the tree that I’d made in class. Expressions are will and magic, the magic fades as soon as the will or attention is removed. The effects can remain. Earth being moved stays moved. But this is a charm.
I cocked my head to the side as I noticed it wasn’t just a charm. It was a charm running off an enchantment. The glyph stone was the reservoir. I couldn’t see a link, not even a broken one, it must run off ambient.
I let out a breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding. The concepts were intact. I could figure them out well enough even if I didn’t hold them. But if I didn’t have them I couldn’t make them, I would’ve had to wing it.
I stood up, placed my feet squarely on the central glyph stone, then concentrated. My power flowed out in a gentle swell. The tattered threads became saturated with my power. then I pulled it all back, a bit at a time. My channels tingled as the foreign taint was absorbed. My skin crawled at the sensation.
Sweat started to bead on my forehead, my breath came in fits and starts as I strained harder to pull all the remaining power.
My sweat dripped off my face, the light patter of it falling on the stone knocked me out of the trance. The light from the window had faded, shadows filled my normal sight
The easy part was done.
I looked down at my feet, at the central enchantment. The tattered threads were all gone. The three concepts stood out in a stark contrast to the freshly sterile area. I studied them for a few moments using the time to prepare myself for the next part.
I spun threads from the reservoir throughout the entire foundation then up through the walls,to carry the effect and the power then I created the charm to strengthen and reinforce the building and wound it through the threads. I felt a pulse of feedback as the charm initialized.
Now to make it permanent.
I sunk to my knees and laid my trembling hand on the stone. The concepts near vibrated with eagerness, the connectives came to mind so quickly it was if someone was whispering instructions to me, but I couldn’t hear the magic’s voice this time. It was closer to whispering to myself. My tired mind unable to connect where the information came from.
I felt the moment the last link fell into place.
The dregs of my power drained out of me. My vision clouded and I felt myself fall. I couldn’t move my arms up fast enough. I landed on my face.
It should’ve hurt, but I was beyond feeling.