Chloe leaned against the wall and watched the rest of the second-year students, all of whom had gathered in the courtyard. Countess she might be, and with only a younger sister the title of marquis would be hers in time, but here in the Alir mage academy, all the Yinara name brought her was the final turn in all group activities. Normally this didn’t bother her as it allowed her to learn from the mistakes of others rather than her own, giving her the opportunity to cultivate an air of extreme competence. Today, however, was different, today they were summoning their familiars.
It took all the self-control she had developed in her twenty-two years of life not to grind her teeth in impatience. Instead, she cast her mind back to the first lessons she had received here in an attempt to distract herself. Those first lessons had contained the most basic of basic information, most of which was common knowledge, but as the instructors had been so fond of telling them in those early days
“No complex spell can be reliably constructed or cast without a strong foundation of understanding and knowledge.”
And today was the absolute last day she could afford to make a mistake.
“now as I am sure most of you know” the teacher had lectured that first day “there are three distinct types of magicians, mages, sorcerers, and witches and wizards. First and most relevant to us there are the mages. As with all living things, the very act of living generates magical energy but what sets the mage apart from everyone else is that the mage's body generates that energy far faster the other people and can hold vastly more of it than the average body before it starts to leak into the world. This you see is why mages can cast the most controlled spells of any of the three, for while the magic is inside their body they have absolute control over it.”
The professor had sighed and run his hand through his hair before continuing. “This is of course also their greatest weakness as well as it means that the only magical energy they have direct access to is that within their own bodies. As is the case with the other two, all mages have an affinity or two and they will almost never cast spells not connected to this affinity as the energy cost would be far higher. As history has shown a magician’s affinity can be just about any substance, theme or concept one can imagine. For example, a couple of common affinities would be earth and air with less obvious magical affinities being such things as spatial manipulation or mind or soul magic. These of course barely begins to scratch the surface of the myriad of possible affinities.”
“But that is a topic for another day.” he said, letting out a snort of amusement “Now back on topic, mages. A mages energy and control mean that in civilian life they are most often employed to cast very precise spells or construct vary delicate magical items. In battle, a mage will most often have heavily enchanted their armor with some methods of defense in line with their affinity. offensively they generally try to identify weaknesses and exploit them with pinpoint attacks. They also normally carry a brace of wands, each of which they have repeatedly enchanted with a specific offensive or defensive spell, storing the magical energy in gems inlaid into the wand.”
“Next are the sorcerers, in most ways sorcerers are the polar opposite of mages, they have no control over the magic within them and normally lack the control to even touch it. The spells a sorcerer casts have no finesse, but they make up for that with sheer power. Unlike a mage, a sorcerer can channel the magical energy that is around them through their body and into their spells. Again, unlike a mage, a sorcerer is absolutely limited to spells that are of their affinity and they rarely are able to use subtle applications of that affinity.”
“while the military or a guard force is by far the most common profession for a sorcerer they are also often hired by cities if their affinity can be turned to large-scale construction or demolition work. Militarily they are the ones you hear stories about, the ones who fling sheets of fire or rip open trenches in the ground separating units from each other. Defensively they often surround themselves with some form of their affinity, but they primarily focus on all-out attack.”
“Finally, there are the witches and wizards. One could certainly argue that witches and wizards are a midpoint between mages and sorcerers. Like sorcerers, a witch or wizard can grasp and channel the magical energy that is around them through their body and into their spells. Now, what separates a witch or wizard from a sorcerer and brings them closer to mages are their sanctums. A sanctum is a building constructed by witches and wizards and attuned to a specific affinity. A witch or wizard can attune themselves to a sanctum that matches their own affinity and within the walls of the sanctum, the enchantments woven throughout it help to focus spells of that affinity. While I say that a sanctum focuses the magic, and that is certainly an accurate description of what happens, if you were ever to ask a witch or wizard what one does they would say that the spells on the sanctum harmonize with their magic, as that is apparently what it feels like.”
“When more than one witch or wizard lives in a sanctum the inhabitants are described as a coven and, as the construction of a sanctum is an extremely difficult process, it is rare to find one with only a single occupant. Within the walls of their sanctum, a witch or wizard nears the precision of a mage and combines that with access to all power of a sorcerer. While this might seem like the ideal type of magician there is a serious drawback, outside of their sanctums there are nearly helpless, they can’t hold there spells together without the sanctum’s enchantments acting as a harmony to their spells. There are some crutches that can be made for a witch or wizard who wants to travel, but that is a discussion for another time. Witches and wizards produce the vast majority of the enchanted items we use in our day to day lives. Militarily their primary use besides producing magical weapons and armor is as defensive points. Most of the greatest castles and fortresses in the world are also sanctums, it would take the entire coterie of magicians of a good-sized army to take an established sanctum that had even a two or three member coven. So, as you can see”
“Yinara, Chloe.” Her reminisces were abruptly cut short as she heard the loud call from the center of the courtyard. As she stood up a final memory tugged the corners of her lips up into a slight grin. A couple of weeks later when the introductory courses had come to an end and it was time to begin picking classes she had not seen a single surprised face when the fact that that first instructor had once been a coterie lead and that several of the classes for aspiring war mages were being taught by him had come out.
As she walked through the courtyard all those memories slipped back down into her subconscious to be replaced with one burning thought, one word “familiar”
She was well aware that the act of calling and contracting with a familiar was one of the most important points in a mages life and she could not wait to begin.
She knew that some people tried to call for familiars who would complement their abilities while others would try to get one that would compensate for their weaknesses, she had a different criterion in mind, a very simple one.
She strode into the first of the two circles and stood, facing the other one, before she closed her eyes. She knew that sometimes a familiar might be called from the surrounding environment while other times it was summoned into the circle from distant continents or even other worlds. Shoving her hope that it would be a summoning out of her mind, she began to cast the spell.
As she released the power in the way the instructors had shown them she focused all her will on the thoughts and feelings that would guide her spell and be conveyed to her familiar.
“Power” for a moment she made that one idea be all that she was “I want power, power to protect my people, and to destroy all who would threaten them”
At that, she felt the first twitch in her magic and she focused again “Power, I want power to protect those who would give me loyalty, and to crush those who would give me treachery”
With that, an even stronger twitch ran through the spell and she focused again “Power, I want power to protect those whom I love, and to annihilate all who would harm them.”
With that final thought, the link that she was making pulled taught, and magic began to flood out of her. She had one, horrified, moment to realize that if something did not change soon she would run out of magic long before the link was complete.
Something changed, suddenly it was not her magic that was building the link but instead the magic of the creature being linked to her. Her shock at that almost caused her to break the link, it was almost unheard of for a creature to both be eager enough for a bond to help and to have the magic to be able to.
And then to make her shock total the creature somehow began to refill her own nearly depleted magic reserves. As the link grew stronger she could feel the creatures fear that unless it did so she would not have the power to complete the spell. With that feeling pressing in on her she began to weave her newly acquired power into the link.
And then, suddenly it was done. She felt the link, whole and strong, mindbogglingly strong in fact, and took a deep breath before opening her eyes.
The sight that confronted her as her eyes opened caused her jaw to drop. There, standing in the other circle, was a goat with jet black fur.
Then for the first time, the link carried a fully formed and coherent thought to her from her new familiar, one single thought, one word. “Mooo”