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As a fellow of the austere class of individuals who offered consultancy on policy and products, Gwen felt spoilt for choice as to what she could convincingly compose for the essay at hand.

For all the magical bluster this world possessed, humanity was woefully behind in two main civic arenas: bureaucracy and politics.

The Mage-world had no democracy to speak of, no concrete concept of individual rights, especially regarding that of the NoMs who formed the prole base of the power pyramid. Hers was a society of city-state Fascism, a long-suffering state of Apartheid by magical lottery. Thanks to the necessity of survival, humanity had adhered to ideologies akin to the 15th-century Italian Romagna. City-states form self-serving enclaves from which a spider web of influence radiated, establishing a perimeter of Frontier Cities whose only purpose was to feed the bulbous body. China was such a state, possessing the cosmopolitan capital of Shanghai, and the old seat of imperial power, Beijing. Under the CCP, citizens were given, rather than allowed to elect, political representatives, who served the Party before all else.

But, these officials had little power over the Mages, who consider themselves above worldly legality. The more powerful the Mage, the less they saw themselves as tethered to the rules that bound the proles. A sanctioned Magister obeyed the orders of the PLA because of the boon granted by allegiance to the political party, performed out of ideology, not because they could be compelled to do so.

Instead, the Towers ruled over the Mages. The PLA Tower and the Pudong Tower, forming a contest of power. The PLA Tower bent its resources to develop its trope of Neophyte fodder, Magus Lieutenants and Lord Magisters, while the Pudong Tower remained tethered to the Tower system initially envisioned by its European creators after the Second Great War.

For Gwen, whose knowledge of politics came both from everyday observance, a religious reading of the political columns and tertiary study, it was par for the course that she could offer a hundred reasons why such an Apartheid system of government, existing above the law, would eventually implode.

The projection of their society was hardly sustainable, even if the present danger meant that the majority was happy to place all power into the hands of a vocal minority.

From her encounters with the Houses, the Clans, and even Mages from the Frontier, she could tell that if there was one thing that Mages respected, it was might.

For the students of Spellcraft, Might Makes Right.

There was no rule of law; it was as though the world outside the mundane was the Wild West. The strong took what they wanted, whenever they wanted. If there was treasure, one vied for it. If there was beauty, one pursued and commandeered it. If there was a Dungeon, one conquered it. Dominion operated on a balance of power, stripped of rules and regulations.

The reality of the world she now inhabited still sent Gwen's common-sense reeling, even after a year and a half.

Should she write about Locke? Propose the Second Treaties in mixing one’s labour with the land?

Or perhaps she could draw upon the mighty Leviathan, offer some insight on the symbiotic nature between the head and the hands?

Or maybe even Rousseau, whose’ treaties on the Savage Man seemed right at home with the wanton natures of Mages in this world.

Gwen put pen to paper.

She began to write.

“On the Vindication of NoMs among us.”

She would write something with passion and eloquence, drawn from a period of the 19th century where women lacked rights, property, and recognition; a reflection of the state of NoMs. She took lines from Wollstonecraft, who’s essay she had studied extensively in university, as well as others such as Woolf, weaving funny anecdotes with bitter diatribe and witty banter.

For Mages, even the highest Mages, Gwen wrote, originated from NoMs. Though the Houses and Clans have found themselves weaned away from the paltry existence of those without Magic, they are nonetheless cursed to produce Squabs, a misnomer for those born into bloodlines who fail the genetic lottery. To abuse the NoMs, to treat them as one does in the Frontier cities, as little more than fodder and scum, forgotten and left to menial labour, abused, taken advantage of, pillaged at the pleasure of the Mage - is to debase humanity itself. The abuse of greatness is when it is disjoint from remorse! And a Mage is but the champion of Man!

As Mages possess such abundant resources compared to the common man, why not seek to eradicate the people trafficking in the extensive ghettos, and invest in education for the NoMs, restructuring the bottom of society as to offer meagre but meaningful employment? There may yet be great innovators, originators, scholars, creators of the arts, celebrated human minds that lay untapped among the populace. What could potentially emerge is a new renaissance of thinking, of art, culture, invention and innovations stemming from the largest population of humanity - the NoMs.

Gwen wrote roughly but idealistically, understanding that she has yet to touch upon the upper echelons of her society and attain a genuine understanding of the woes this world faced. It should be the sort of thing that her instructors would find amusing but eloquent, ideal but be lacking in substance, a demonstration of a student with great hopes and great designs for the future, positively an individual who’d hope that Spellcraft could change the world in meaningful ways!

Does not a NoM bleed when you prick them?
Does not a NoM cry when they are hurt?
Have they no family, no father and mother, sons and daughters?
If one can argue for the Mage, one can apply for the NoM!

Gwen finished with a minute to spare, having composed two-dozen pages in florid but neat handwriting in the two hours since.

The female Proctor collected her essay with an expression of astonishment.

“That’s a lot of writing!” She turned her burning eyes upon the pretty applicant.

“I had a lot to say,” Gwen stated matter-of-factly.

The examiner inclined her head and collated Gwen's answers with a swipe of her hand.

“Your companion has finished early. He waits for you outside.”

“Thank you.”

Gwen ventured outside the examination hall, shielding her eyes against the glare of the mid-day sun.

“Ready for your next examination?” Richard's smiling face awaited her arrival.

“Sure, what did you write about?”

“Coming from Sydney, I’d think that would be self-evident,” Richard stated seriously. “I wrote a treatise about periodically cleansing the coastal regions as to prevent a built up of Magical Creatures in the Coastal Wildlands.”

“That sounds rather pragmatic.” Gwen pursed her lips. Should she have written something likewise practical? The essay did say ‘change the world’, did it not?

“It was nothing original,” Richard added. “Though I did some math and pointed out the benefits of using minimal force to project maximum gain in acquiring resources for the city, as well as using the operation as training for junior Mages to acquaint them with oceanic and coastal combat. I included thirty-six points of interest, and pointed out fourteen potential setbacks.”

“Oh.” Gwen felt even less sure of her boastful essay now.

“What did you do?”

“Er… stuff.” Gwen played with a coil of hair self-consciously. “I wrote about NoMs.”

Richard blinked, then snorted encouragingly.

“I should have thought as much. I am sure it’ll do well. You’re very eloquent and convincing when you need to be.”

“Thanks, Richard.” Gwen smiled at him sweetly.

“Anytime,” Richard fired back. “Shall we?”

* * *

The field trials took place next door in another warehouse adjacent to the first.

“You will be entering an isolation zone roughly the size of a football field,” the Proctor explained. “Are you aware of the procedure? Would you like me to explain?”

“The Dean has already explained,” Richard informed the Proctor.

“Very well, let us proceed.”

Richard and Gwen could hear the sound of the combat even before they entered the warehouse, buzzing in the background behind a muffled mana shield.

The arena took up the entire length of the enormous warehouse, fitted with bleachers on three-sides and shielded unilaterally with Walls of Force. Within the platform, a rolling knoll the size of a football field, a two-headed giant wielded a club clumsily, fighting a Mage who flittered about through the air like a sprite.

“Glacial Missiles!”

A flurry of a dozen blue-white bolts zinged through the air to strike the giant in both eyes, centred upon each brow. The thick hide of the giant shrugged off the force of the attacks, but the penetrative elemental damage momentarily blinded the Cyclopean Ettin.

“Sleet Storm!”

Taking a seat on the bleachers, Gwen and Richard caught a better look at the Mage, finding the caster to be an elfin girl with short cropped hair, giving her a pixie-like appearance. She flew through the air as though it was second nature, corkscrewing and turning as the two-headed Ettin battered the space surrounding it in a blind rage.

“Blizzard!”

With the ground reduced to a slippery sheet of ice and debris, a blast of forceful ice was sufficient to send the disorientated Ettin backwards, tripping and falling until it crashed onto the zone of ice created by the Evocation spell.

An Evoker-Transmuter! Gwen marvelled, deeply impressed. A solid build for a Combat Wizard, particularly one aiming for the enviable position of an Aerial Battle Mage.

With the Ettin floored, the elfin girl flew directly above its twin heads.

“Frost Ball!”

A shrieking sphere of frost left her fingers and struck the Ettin on the right head, where it rapidly expanded into a forty-foot diameter ring of rime drawn directly from the Elemental Plane of Ice.

The Ettin shuddered as its head froze, pawing its face feebly, struggling to breathe as its respiratory systems rebelled from the cold.

“Enough!” A Proctor activated a device, and the Ettin disappeared in a shimmering show of Conjuration mana. The field of the Arena, conjured to be grassy highlands, likewise ceased to be, returning to the bare concrete of the un-transmogrified space of the warehouse.

The gathered audience clapped as the girl landed, her face glowing with a sheen of exertion.

“Very good, Kitty, you may return.”

The girl bowed to the Proctor and returned to the bleachers, where she met half a dozen others in jovial congratulations.

The Proctor then turned to the crowd.

“As it were, we have TWO more entries into the examination,” he announced by raising his voice an octave. “Reset the field!”

“WHAT!” one of the students let loose an unkind outburst that made Gwen wince. “How can this be? There’re only eighteen contestants!”
“You can’t just add people last minute! The candidates are finalised weeks in advance!”
“Mao! Unfair! Who are these people!”
“Wocao, I bet they paid their way in,” someone suggested rudely.
“What is Dean Jiang thinking?”
“My House will hear about this!”
“I demand an answer!”
“Tama-di! House Jia demands an answer!” someone else swore loudly.

“Silence!” The Proctor’s face flushed a shade darker. “All decisions are made by the Dean. If you’re unhappy with it, you are welcome to withdraw from the LSCC Mid-Semester Scholarship Exam.”

The students shut up at once. Their eyes scanned the field for these two intruders into the competition, these two upstarts. They found them on the opposite bleacher.

“Gwen Song!” the Proctor announced, his voice filled with displeasure. "Proceed onto the field."

“May I go first?” Richard stood.

“No.” The Proctor shook his head, not even bothering to look toward Richard. “Gwen Song. Are you ready to proceed with your first attempt?”

Richard sat back down and placed a hand on Gwen’s knee.

“I’ll be fine,” Gwen said to her companion.

“I know,” Richard replied stoically.

“What Tier would you like to attempt?” the Proctor enquired of Gwen.

“What was the two-headed giant?” Gwen asked in return.

“Tier 5.”

“Very well, give me tier 6.”

The Proctor raised a bushy brow.

“We are not responsible for any injuries, though we will endeavour to preserve your life,” he said carefully. "If you are grievously injured, you may not attempt again."

“I am aware, proceed.” Gwen walked past the Proctor.

"Break a leg!" Richard shouted.

She ignored him.

Gwen walked across the bleachers and made her way down to the area. A few catcalls and a whistle answered her from across the hall, where the majority of the other contestants sat brooding like disgruntled ogres.

As she descended into the arena, Gwen produced a scrunchy from her Ring and pulled back her loose bun until it tapered into a tight bundle around the back of her skull, forming a cascading ponytail that dropped luxuriously between her shoulders, bobbing as she moved.

She looked up to see her hecklers and saw a near-dozen of them seated here and there. There were three groups, a clump congregated near the centre, in the midst of which was the prior contestant, the flying girl. Their mixed attire indicated that they were from different walks of life, but their comfortable body language intimated that they shared some history.

Another group, a trio, sat way off in the corner, their similar semi-formal attire indicated they were likely from a single Clan, or perhaps a local, prestigious school.

The third consisted of a loner, a sullen-looking young man who sat by himself, projecting a desolate atmosphere.

Gwen stepped onto the concrete with clacking heels. She could feel the eyes of the gathered contestants like feelers over her skin, measuring every inch of her presence, taking in her likeness and trying to discern her secrets.

“Initiating tier 6 Combat Trial!”

A hushed murmur fell over the hall.

“Tier 6?” someone from the first group hissed. “Who does she think she is?”
“She’s nuts,” a compatriot answered the first. "That means it could effectively hit tier 8."
“Shush! Shut up,” the sprite-like Mage with the pixie-cut intervened. “Watch.”

The grounds shimmered and churned until the materialised space resembled a savanna, created from a combination of Conjuration, Transmutation and Illusionary glyphs. Her old High School, Blackwattle, had such a field as well, though far lacking in realism and scale.

“You may self-buff should you wish,” the Proctor informed Gwen. “Extra points if you do not.”

Gwen considered the offer.
She was here to win, and she was fully confident in Caliban holding off a tier 6 whatever. It wasn't as though she had any meaningful buffs other than Void Skin. Furthermore, she was sure that Conjuration traps like Tentacles did not count as self-buffs.

“I’ll be fine. Please proceed.” Gwen waved him off.

The refusal to pre-buff sent the crowd into a murmur. It was a recipe for disaster not to protect oneself or to preload powerful spells. A Mage should sue for every advantage, especially if one were challenging something at the apex of one's power. Did the arrogant girl below infer that tier 6 was not her limit? That she could go to 7 or 8? That tier 6, enough to wipe out a remote outpost, was not at a difficulty she considered significant?

They felt their arrogance falter. This Gwen Song was either a prodigy or an idiot. They had never heard of her, and so the group was inclined to believe in the latter; it wasn't as though genius Mages fell from trees in the Frontiers.

A savannah-scape could infer some nasty beasties. A sizeable Wildland Lion, a thick-hided rhino; a gibbering host of Hobs, a Land Shark; it could be anything.

“You may begin once the creature is summoned,” the Proctor informed them. "Adjudicator, you may proceed."

“Summon Creature!”

A burst of brilliant Conjuration mana filled one end of the arena, roughly fifty paces from where Gwen stood starkly in her white blouse and pencil skirt, looking as though an attractive office hostess had lost herself in the wilderness of the steppes.

It was far easier to conjure creatures of a particular tier if one cared not what the spell pulled through time and space. It also guaranteed that whatever was ripped out from its home and displaced through the Astral Plane into the Material Plane was going to be very angry. As such, despite being a staple spell of the Conjuration school, the random summon was rarely used in the presence of allies. Attuning oneself to invoke a particular kind of creature involved tapping into the affinity of a Spirit, or signing a contract with a Demi-human or extra-planar being. Hearsay stated that Demi-casters could speak the tongue of Wildland creatures and compel them forth, entirely under the command of the Caster. Humanity lacked such luxuries for their study of Magic was younger; it was not uncommon for a Summoner to lose the privilege of banishing whatever the spell called forth.

As the silvery motes faded, the shape of a feline form the size of a people-mover van came into view. The creature appeared disorientated for the first split-second, but its golden eyes quickly adjusted upon Gwen as it brought its powerful musculature to bear.

“A Chimaera Lioness!” someone cried out from the stands. "Tier 7!"

“Caliban!” Gwen summoned her trump card even as the lioness began its charge. She could now see that the creature was not entirely lion-like. Its head and upper body resembled that of a giant lioness, but its lower torso ended with hooves, its tail a hissing serpent. Furthermore, as the creature began to bear down upon Gwen with the ferocity of a seething pride, she could see that its eyes possessed that strange and alien cornea which goats possessed.

In its path, Caliban burst forth.

Gwen felt the safety threshold provided by Almudj’s vital force instantly overcome as Caliban emerged into the Material Realm in its newest form. She had willed her creature to appear in its spider guise, but the burgeoning mass the Void vomited forth had only two pairs of limbs. Furthermore birthing its massive frame took a toll of vitality from Gwen that left her winded.

"C-Caliban!" Gwen clenched her teeth. "Defend me!"

Had Caliban grown too powerful for her to command? Gwen's thoughts were dancing a jig, full of chaos and unbidden fears of losing control. The Lovecraftian horror had, after all, consumed thousands of critters and an Elder Gila in the last few days, while her Conjuration had remained unimproved since before her Master was murdered by his erstwhile wife. Whatever tier Caliban may be in its new form, it wasn't containable by her measly fourth-level aptitude.

To the observers of the battle, they felt as though the unwitting witnesses to a grotesque miracle.

A slit had opened in the gap between the Astral and the Material, from which emerged a humanoid bullfrog with the girth of a sedan. It fell onto the Transmuted floor of the make-shift savannah like a drop of tenebrous ink, then unfolded itself into an eight-foot-tall frog-lizard-humanoid spawn of indefinite shape. Its body mass was stacked like a reversed pyramid, with the bulbous musculature of its head taking up almost half of its torso. In the centre of its faceless mien was an enormous lamprey’s mouth drooling with grey slime. Its upper limbs were long and sinuous, ending with obsidian claws embedded into three-toed hands. Its hind legs were comically short, resembling those of frogs, but thick and stout, kinetically coiled like two primed pistons.

The two monstrous existences met each other halfway in a titanic clash, the lioness leaping into the air and launching itself into a powerful kick with its hooves even as its fore-limbs racked and slashed and its feline maw tore into the rubbery flesh of the summoned Familiar. The Chimaera’s serpentine tail likewise bit into the slimy dermis of its opponent, delivering a necrotic venom that would liquify living tissue in a matter of seconds.

Caliban’s rubbery flesh became rendered at once, becoming ribbons of dark meat as the lioness' claws cleaved and tore at the glossy exterior.

Gwen felt another bout of vitality drain away, stealing the breath from her chest, but what else could she do at this point? She had made her bed, and now she must lie in it. Had she known Caliban would have emerged with such size and ferocity, she would have chosen to buff up first, or perhaps rely on lightning.

She could feel the gibbering bestial joy that Caliban exerted transfer empathically through their link. A command came unbidden to her mind, embedded within Caliban’s newly acquired body. Gwen felt a wave of nausea as she indulged her beast, wishing to end the bout as soon as possible.

“Consume!”

She staggered back and had to steady herself with visible effort as a pound of flesh was delivered to her insatiable familiar.

Caliban swelled with swirling Void energies, its rib cage violently expanding as it ballooned in size, surprising even the Chimaera Lioness who lost its grip upon Caliban's slimy exterior.

With a gurgling hiss, Caliban’s lamprey’s mouth unfolded, expanding until it became a maw the width of its body, a full meter across at the extremities.

"What the fuck!" Voices in the crowd cried out.
"Wocao!"
"Mao's jade balls!"

Even the lioness howled in guttural terror as its goat’s eyes stared into the bottomless depth held captive within Caliban's toothy hell.

With the sound of a wet, slurping crunch, Caliban enclosed its mouth around the struggling Chimaera, attaching bloodily onto its upper body by swallowing the lion's entire frontal torso.

The gathering watched with mouth-open, abominable disgust as Caliban's lips disregarded all properties of the physical flesh to expand massively around the lion-creature, not unlike that of the proverbial bullfrog trying to swallow prey twice its size. Struggle as it might, the lioness seemed incapable of actually piercing Caliban’s rubbery skin from the interior.

With a smooth, slurping motion, Caliban inhaled, filling the area with the sound of bones cracking and vessels popping. There was another brief but violent struggle; then the Chimaera became still.

Caliban's lamprey’s mouth made a sucking motion, then the lower half of the lioness began to slide into the nightmarish thing’s lips. A burst of silvery mana came over the carcass, and the maimed or near-dead creature became unsummoned as the spell unravelled.

The presiding Proctors recovered from the spectacle, only now realising that they should have unsummoned the creature as soon as it fell into the maw of the gibbering beast. Caliban bewilderingly licked its lips and wondered where its delicious meal had gone.

“Oh. My. Mao!”
“What the hell is that?”
“A DEATH GILA! That’s a DEATH GILA!”
“Don’t be an idiot; those are tier 10 or 11! How can someone who's not even a graduate tame something as powerful and chaotic as a Death Gila? Those things are far more intelligent and cunning than you and I, ancient, too.”

Gwen meanwhile, felt her world becoming a topsy-turvy spinning top. She desperately channelled some of her recovering Almudj-mana into her body, steadying herself as to not become a fainting spectacle in the middle of an exam.

“Caliban! Return!” She called out, her voice peevish and upset at her rebellious Familiar.

Caliban did not return.

Gwen felt a slight, spine-tickling panic. There was no tingle of premonition though; she was not in danger, she could handle this, she had to.

Caliban sauntered over toward her on its stunted hind legs.

The void-fiend was huge.
Tower over her in its humanoid form, Gwen realised how massive the creature had become. It was like she was looking up at an obsidian menhir that blotted out the sun.

Caliban’s faceless head, lacking eyes and nose but possessing a mouth spacious enough to fit in her entire torso, lowered itself.

It… wants to be petted? Gwen acknowledged from her empathic link. It's sad and despondent that food disappeared.

"What's she doing?" someone asked the crowd, out of Gwen's earshot.
"Showing off," someone else stated.
"Shit, that thing is a beast!"
"I still think its a Death Gila."
"Whatever it is, I ain't fighting it," a voice remarked, much to the agreement of the others.

Down below, Gwen reached out and patted Caliban's scarred snout, where even now the wounds made by the Chimaera were healing rapidly, leaving behind white lines in its obsidian flesh.

Was Caliban becoming too dangerous? Gwen felt that epiphany more distinctly now than ever. Should its frenzied instinct for consumption get out of hand, it could leave her drained and weakened in the middle of combat, or even turn upon allies.

"Shaaa! Shaaa! Gwarp! Gerrr... Gerrr..."

The humungous humanoid-frog purred and croaked through its circular-saw lips, drooling grey-slime as it nudged her like a cat, send Gwen off-balance.

Gwen fed it an unopened can of Spam.

The crowd in the bleachers brooded with unknowable emotions.

The Proctor's thoughts were otherwise.

That was a terrible display.

No skill. No finesse. No display of control or knowledge.

There was nothing but power.

Raw. Brutal. Unmitigated Power.

It was as if Gwen Song was showing her competitors that she didn’t need their aeons of study, their painstaking education, nor their much-contested resources. She was in possession of a higher power as literal as a nightmarish bullfrog eating a thrashing feline twice its size, alive.

How does one contest against that?

The girl wasn't even bothering with the etiquette of retracting her beast and clearing the field for the next contestant! She was showing off! She was parading her fiendish-summon like a prized dog! Best-in-Show! Regard its noble mien! Look upon its glossy, slimy exterior! Watch me stroke its horrid, aberrant form like a winning cat! Behold its bearing! Look, it eats Spam!

It was enough to drive a Mage insane with jealousy.

As prodigies, the contestants recognised the rare talent of Void, and with that recognition came the intense feelings of despair felt by all when predestination superseded effort and endeavour.

The pixie girl, in particular, was white as a sheet as her lips became gnawed to redness, disgusted at the frog-spawn and its owner in equal measure.

How could Gwen Song know their pain?! How much training they had to do!

Below, Gwen painfully begged Caliban to return to its pocket dimension.

"Please, Caliban, do it for mummy!"

Instead, the frog-fiend sniffed the air and hung out a tenebrous tongue of pink flesh to lick her face.

“Okay, okay, buddy, come on! Go home!” Gwen rubbed its snout a little more vigorously, ribbing it with her knuckles.

Caliban turned toward the bleaches. It regarded the young Mages. There was a feeling of intense hunger.

Gwen felt within her body a renewed tug of war.

“No!” She slapped Caliban wetly on the flank. “GO HOME! God-damn-it Caliban! In!"

Caliban turned to regard her with wariness, sending a few butterflies her way.

“Friend!” Gwen pointed at the Mages. “They’re friends! Don’t harm them. NOT FOOD! Go home!”

There was a moment of hesitation between Master and Familiar, then, as if a higher power answered, Caliban returned to its pocket dimension, becoming once more the amiable form of the serpent.

Gwen breathed out a sigh of immense relief and turned to the Proctors. So much for a display of mastery, she moaned internally.

An awkward round of applause began in the bleachers, likely urged by Richard. Scattered clapping filled the arena before the Proctor dispelled the conjured landscape.

“You may wait on the other side.” The Proctor motioned to the side where the other students were sitting.

Ah, Gwen thought to herself. So that’s why they were all assembled on the opposite side. She willed a little more of Almudj's energy to fortify her health. Carefully and slowly, she stalked across the concrete and ascended the ankle-high steps.

A dozen pair of eyes regarded Gwen as she crossed the threshold.

“Hello.” She waved to the largest group. “I am Gwen Song.”

The group turned to look at the pixie girl, who made no move to greet Gwen. Awkwardly, Gwen retracted her arm and turned to the trio on the sidelines.

Thankfully, these waved back, but their body language was neither invitational or amiable, merely polite.

The final student, the brooding one in black, didn’t even bother to acknowledge her presence.

Well, shit. Off to a good start, Gwen sighed. The larger group was more likely to be accepting of her in the long run, but all of that would have to wait until after the trials. If she was to assume a scholarship position that one of them would have realised otherwise, it wasn't likely that they were going to be fast friends.

Not to mention, Gwen's mind added wistfully. She needed some immediate and dire instruction on what happened when a Familiar grows above and beyond the tiers of Conjuration possessed by the Conjurer. How can she wrestle back the mental control she had once maintained over Caliban and prevent her darling beast from taking her life-force to ‘protect’ her whenever it felt necessary to do so?

All of that would have to wait until the semester began and she could speak intimately with a course coordinator.

Gwen patted down her dress and sat on the wooden slabs that made the bleaches' benches. She crossed her legs and tried to regulate her breathing, watching as Richard entered the stage.

She had complete confidence in her companion.

And her faith was not left unfounded.

Richard’s field turned out to be a semi-urban setting consisting of stunted walls and broken rubble. His challenge of tier 6 Summoned beings was a troop of a dozen cunning Corpse Wolves, necrotic creatures riddled with disease and venom. A single wolf was barely past the range of tier 3, but when the wily creatures worked as a pack, they became a significant threat to settlements and expeditions, capable of taking down entire parties of Mages. The Alpha of the pack that emerged furthermore showed signs of near-human intelligence, commanding the others to surround Richard as soon as the wolves became orientated to their new surroundings, fanning out across the make-shift landscape of Illusion and Transmutation.

As before, Richard spread motes of water throughout the surroundings, abusing the superior elemental control afforded by Lea. With a perimeter set, he had absolute dominion within his ‘zone’ of water.

When the Alpha struck after being misled, Richard ensnared it in a web of water, wrangling the creature until it whimpered and gagged. Then with casual cruelty, Richard dispatched the beast with extreme prejudice, rending it limb from limb in plain view of the others.

Gwen watched with fascinated horror and tingling unease as the wolf was slowly wrung like a rag, first snarling, then whimpering, then begging for death.

Jesus, Richard... She swallowed anxiously, wondering why her hands and feet were stone cold. Richard has no chill.

The remaining wolves hid as well as they could, becoming invisible and unmoving under the urban cover. With the semi-intelligent wolf pack sufficiently cowed, Richard asked the Proctor if the exam should continue.

The Proctor affirmed his success, and the practical exam came to an end.

Richard flashed his amiable, mask-like grin toward the others as they golf-clapped with a nervousness entirely different to when Gwen made her attempt.

“Well, shall we?” Richard extended a hand toward Gwen, reaching her height on the bleachers effortlessly. “One more to go.”

Gwen shot a sideways glance at her fellow contestants, whose faces were unreadable masks of consternation.

Her wane thin lips broke into a broad-lipped smile as she looked up at her peerless companion.

“Let us go then,” she replied, taking his hand.

The interview. A future curriculum. Caliban’s unruly attitude.
She had bigger fish to fry than these kids and their teenage angst.

 

 

 

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A note from Wutosama

Had this done on the plane so quick release! 


About the author

Wutosama

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

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