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A note from Wutosama

Edited 13/01/19

When the Gwen was just sixteen, her father remarried. His fiancèe was a younger caucasian woman only five-years older than Gwen. Before their engagement, Gwen had met her a dozen times, each time keeping out of her way. A week before the wedding, her future step-mother decided to have an unexpected heart to heart.

“You’re a bad influence on your father,” she sobbed, standing so close that her forehead almost touched Gwen's chin. “You have too much of your mother in you. It is making our family miserable.”

It wasn't an unreasonable accusation. Gwen's insolent rebellion against her father did somewhat castrate Morye's masculine authority.

“I’ve waited three months for you to leave already. We want you gone. What do you want? Money? A place to stay? That’s all fine. We’ll pay for it, so long as you get out of the house."

Morye wasn't a confrontational father and so had left Gwen's inevitable exodus to take its natural course. Gwen had planned to save up money working her summer job at Bondi, then move out to a state housing project for teens in Crowsnest, not far from Blackwattle.

Though not unsympathetic for her step-mother, something in Gwen's gut had caught on a nail. She promised her future step-mother that she would move out, then promptly called Helena, informing her father was getting married, at this location, at this particular time. Fearing that her mother wasn't enough of a shit-storm, she also called Kwan and told him the step-mother had designs on her and Percy’s inheritance.

The wedding had gone swimmingly after that; right up shit creek.

At the ceremony, several large vans deposited buckets of excreta over the gates, the red carpet, and a part of the venue's decor. It was a symbolic message of displeasure delivered by a well-connected and influential family.

“How did Helena know?”
“How did Kwan find out?”

The bride's eyes turned toward Gwen, who froze on the spot.

They knew.

What did her new Master and her sister-in-craft suspect?

Gwen felt paralysed by that familiar 'oh shit' feeling.

How to explain that a part of her soul, presumably her original partition, wasn't Awakened? Wasn't the 'Awakening' the single most important thing taught to Mages, indoctrined and emphasised from birth?

“I... I am not Awakened?” Her mind was a shamble of tangled thorns, her tongue caught in a barb wire snare. “I… I don’t know.”

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Gwen screamed to herself, useless brain!

“Impossible!” Alesia was no less surprised than Gwen. “She'd been an Evoker the whole time. I trained her myself!”

Henry's eyes glinted.

“Look here.” He pointed at Gwen’s astral form, where her crystalline silhouetted body was reflected below. “The interaction between her Lightning Element and her Evocation Sigil is strange, don't you think? Notice how they detour and branch out before manifesting outside her body.”

Gwen looked down and observed to her distress that discharges of electricity from her Evocation Sigil were indeed circulating here and there needlessly.

How was I supposed to know that! Gwen screamed internally, the textbooks we had were pieces of shit, they barely explained anything other than common phenomena! Fuck this world and its lack of Wikipedia!

“A portion of her Astral Soul remains intact and untouched,” Henry intoned sagely with a flourish. “Virginal, even!”

“…” Gwen’s complexion caught fire.

Alesia threw her master an admonishing glare.

“So… Gwen, my Apprentice,” Henry hurriedly continued, dismissing his faux pas. “You don’t know?”

“No Sir,” Gwen confessed. "I wasn't very studious at school."

"You know nothing?"

Gwen shook, then nodded, then shook her head.

“Ah well.” Henry shrugged. "No worries."

“Sir?” Gwen spluttered. "I am sorry?"

“It's fine. I said,” The Magister repeated himself.

“Why, Master?” Gwen's shock and horror were now turning into indignation and confusion. It was fine, no worries? Was the mystery of her dual-Elemental origin merely a lark at the pub? Was she a sheep with an extra horn? She'd been so terrified of becoming an other-worldly specimen that she could have peed!

Henry's expression informed Gwen she was the one who was unreasonable.

"Must you have an answer, child?" Henry chuckled. “I don’t know why ‘I’ could tap into the Prime elements but not the Positive nor Negative, either.”

The Magister continued.

“I don’t know why Alesia can channel the heat of a radiant star without her Astral Form imploding.”

“I don’t know why the Dragons don’t just wipe us from the face of this earth once and for all.”

“I don’t know the hearts of men, especially the brazen ambitions of my fellow Magisters.”

“I don’t know if I made the right choice in offering you a Geas.”

Henry Kilroy, Master of the Sydney Tower, laughed.

“Do you know the reason why your Astral Body remained dormant?”

The answer was 'no'.

Gwen awoke in another world without any discernable reason. She tapped into both Void and Lightning, all the while knowing very little about Spellcraft or Magic. What happened to the old Gwen? Where did her anima go? Was her current being an amalgamation of both Gwens or merely her own?

“No…” Gwen answered with absolute honesty.

“Then who am I to know?” The Magister had an expression of a wise professor imparting a gift of erudition. “The sea of knowledge has no boundaries; we are but sailors skimming its unfathomable depth. So much more knowledge remains to be uncovered, buried a full fathom five, deep below with the bones of the world. Who would have the courage to delve so deep?"

Gwen exhaled, the cadence of her heart's palpitation eased.

She realised that the whole while, her Master was trying to elucidate her fears and staunch her paranoia, setting her woes at peace. His meandering speeches reminded her a little of Plato's account of his teacher, Socrates, whose instruction took place through dialogue, not indoctrination. She was beginning to understand why Alesia gave off such a feeling of cool independence and confidence in everything she did, happily owning every action and decision.

"I think I understand," Gwen replied.

“Good. There is no shame in not knowing. It is when you cease to be curious that you are truly ignorant.” Henry indicated to her reflection. “But for now, let's see some progress."

“Progress?” Gwen's tongue had loosened enough to venture beyond fragments of speech. "Progress to what, Master?"

“Oh, you naive little girl…” Henry’s gaze blazed with great expectation. “Why, your Awakening, dear.”

“How exciting!” Alesia squealed, swinging Gwen's hand to and fro. “Gwen, if this goes well, you're very quickly going to become a Magus! To think that you’re going to embark on the Path with two Schools of Magic, and you’re only fifteen! The others are going to struggle to catch up!”

For some reason, Gwen thought of Yue and Elvia. She wondered if they had safely arrived back at the dorm yet.

“I wouldn’t count your cockatrices before they hatch,” Henry warned them. “The ideal scenario is that Gwen awakens a second school. There's a chance I am wrong as well. I am no Oracle.”

He turned to Gwen. The Magister then produced a sphere from his Storage Ring, a quartz crystal the size of a human head. Months ago, a similar device had initiated Gwen onto the Path of Spellcraft.

“This prototype is much higher tier than the common crystal used by government schools. It is crafted from drake-stone, mined from Lightning Ridge. We are replacing the Awakening Stones region by region, though I am afraid it will be some time yet before the public systems receive theirs."

“Who knows what talents we'd have missed all these years,” Alesia snidely critiqued. “All that potential, maybe more Mages like you, undetected.”

Gwen placed her hand on the stone.

"I am ready, Master."

“Channel your unmodified mana into the stone first, Gwen,” Henry instructed. “I am curious to see if your Sigil can tap into the Quasi-Elemental Plane of the Void."

"I'll try."

The transparent mana of her Astral body surged into the Awakening Stone, bringing it to life. Its ingrained conduits refined Gwen's raw mana before returning the condensed energy into her mana pool.

A safe distance from Gwen, Henry Kilroy activated a suite of diagnostic magic, studying his student as the mana orb made its way to her chest, mingling with her existing energies.

Gwen meanwhile, finally saw the Awakening as it occurred. When she had taken the stone initially, it was without the aid of a Cognisance Chamber; a government school did not possess the HDMs necessary to make such an effort for untested Acolytes. Even if they could, the Cognisance Chamber at the school was an ancient relic from the 50s. The Sydney Tower's Observatory No.1 was imported from Germany, a marvellous piece of European magical engineering.

As her soul melded into her Astral Form, she came to a renewed understanding of the underlying metaphysical principles of Magic. The Sigil, the Conduit, the Elemental Gate; one by one, she saw within the Chamber a detailed visualisation of how they manifested arcane phenomenon, translating will and energy into matter and effect.

One by one, new conduits condense within Gwen's physical body. Correspondingly, her Astral Body also underwent significant changes. Pox-like black dots of Void matter begin to collate, forming a dark nebular rivalling the electric tempest illuminating Gwen's Astral projection.

“Master, isn't that a Negative Energy Gate? Would Gwen be okay?” Alesia intoned worriedly.

“No, not that. Nothing living can survive pure, unadulterated Negative Energy,” Henry noted solemnly. “Unless Gwen originates from a line of Egyptian Jackal Priests or is secretly allied with the Death Priests of Coatlicue, I doubt she'll Awaken to the Path of Undeath."

The Magister regarded the dark motes of Energy manifesting even now,

"That, Alesia, is the Void Element." Kilroy's voice seemed to meander somewhere far away. “A voracious and ruthless Element fuelled by eternal hunger. There is a reason why we so seldom see Mages of this element, can you guess why, Alesia?”

Alesia looked toward her Master alarmingly. Gwen, a Void Mage?

“It is because the fuel for Void spells consist of life, light, and existence itself. It is corrosive by nature, an Element that ultimately consumes its host.”

“So... Void Mages destroy themselves? Is Gwen going to be okay?"

“I do not know," Henry repeated his earlier anaphora.

“Should we let her continue to manifest?” Alesia demanded alarmingly; she would rather Gwen be mediocre than having her sister-in-craft perish from self-harm.

“She should be fine, for now. In time, we shall see if she destroys herself, or if we have to take up that mantle."

"You're talking about..."

"Yes."

"But you can guide her, right? We can guide Gwen so that she doesn't misuse the Void element."

“There will come a time…” Henry's eyes gazed into a middle distance Alesia could not see. “...when the hunger becomes too great. It begins, at first, with those struck down by one's spells, whose essence nourishes the Void, slowly offsetting the effects of using the element. Then, with increased expertise, it becomes easier, quicker and more convenient, to draw upon that absurd power continually. With each tier of progressively more powerful spells, the Void Mage desires alternate sources to sustain their magic. Items at first, supplemental magic, then small sacrifices here and there, a few Drain Life rituals, maybe use your enemies’ vitality against them. Eventually, inevitably, the hunger takes over the Mage's mind, it’s all they think about, the more power they accumulate, the more biomass they need to consume, until finally…”

“Master," Alesia interjected, cutting off her Master's mumbling tirade. "Surely you're giving Gwen a chance!"

Kilroy met his student's imploring gaze.
In a second, he restored his mind to clarity.

"Of course. Did I not take Gwen on as an Apprentice? What manner of a Master would I be to shirk from the duty of polishing a difficult gem? Other would only do her wrong."

"But you just said-" Alesia stopped. "You will? So the Void isn't dangerous?"

Henry's voice seems to grow in strength as he spoke his next words.

"Wood, Void, Lightning - Elements are just that, Alesia: sources of blind and unfeeling primordial energy. I speak of the Void, its nature - not Gwen herself. For a young girl to know our Credo better than even ourselves, who am I to judge how she will take to her Void-tinged powers? As I said, I am not the Oracle of Delphi. It is the spell of the heart that murders, not the spell of the hand, do you understand?"

"I think I do, Master," Alesia worriedly answered. The Flame Magus had seldom seen her master in such a contemplative mood.

Kilroy patted his second Apprentice on the shoulder.

“Be Gwen's friend, Alesia, support her when she is scared, give her solace when she is lonely, offer her advice when she is confused. So long as she does not use her power out of fear, recklessness, or ill-conceived passions, she will be safe."

"Master, I-"

“Look there!" Henry tightened his grip, his thoughts no longer of the present, but of yesterdays he'd thought long forgotten. "She's Awakened!”

 

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A note from Wutosama

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Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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