Year 3 started about the same as the other 2. Classes were starting to get a lot harder but were still enjoyable. Through study, I was able to increase most of my magic skills to expert. This opened many new and powerful spells. This also moved me to the skill level of most of the kingdoms powerful mages. While I'd never be powerful in the use of fire or space I did start to learn how to combine those with my other more powerful abilities to create some truly unique abilities. For example, putting some fire into a strong wind cyclone created a destructive fire cyclone that could destroy entire crops if used that way.
The third year also marked when most students began to talk about their future. Depending on their skills and abilities many doors were open to those in our class. The army was, of course, looking to recruit as well as several noble houses. The crown would look into gathering the most powerful into itself which pretty much was my path to follow. There were research postings if you had that type of mindset but the vast majority of our classmates would be sent to the many towns and villages to help provide the support their needed. One thing I learned early was that our kingdom depended greatly on the magical power of its people. Everything from lighting the homes to keeping the streets clean. From healing the sick to keeping the monsters outside of the walls. Magic was everything and everywhere in our lives.
One thing that surprised me what how I was treated. At first, I assumed I'd either be feared or hated. While it was true that during our first year a lot of the other kids looked at me like I took their favorite toy that seemed to go away over the 2nd year. As people came to know me that fear and hate at times turned to pity. People began to understand that I was going to live a life with no peace, that I'd also be expected to be everywhere. People understood that I no longer had a life that was my own. The pitty forced people to treat me well and from that, I was able to build a base of friends. Those friends, once that knew me, found out that I was likable and decent. I soon found that pitty replaced by friendship. 3rd year became my first real good year.
The 3rd year also marked my first real experience at what my future would hold. The 3rd year marks our first experience with running border patrols. A group of 4 of us were paired with a Senior Mage and sent on a 2-week tour of the border. This exercise was designed to allow us to see what type of issues arose along the borders of the kingdom. Besides myself, the other students were a 3rd-year water mage, a 3rd year light mage, and a 3rd-year earth mage. Our instructor was a dual class water and space mage. This should have been a quick walk in the park for us. Even being 3rd-year students we were all high class in at least 1 class of magic and most were considered combat classes. Things never seem to go over as planned though even more so when I'm around it seems.
The first 3 days were spent heading to the southern border. All I really knew about that border was that it was considered safe. It bordered The kingdom of Geralidian which was a congressional monarchy. Alorian and Geralidian have had around a hundred of years worth of peace after the treaty of 3 rivers was signed. This treaty wasn't designed to end a war but rather was designed to prevent one. For years there were questions regarding the location of the southern border and while not major battles had been fought there were a lot of little engagements over the years. Dozens of lives on both sides were lost fighting over small pieces of farmland and not even great farmland. The only issue along the border were old farm families that still held a deep-seated anger over the treaty. But that only amounted to a few dozen families living along a border that stretched several hundred miles.
Once we arrived at the border we started our circuit at one of the border outposts. Now while we call these outposts it's more of a guard shack. a single common room, a kitchen, and 2 bunk rooms made up these outposts. They were manned at all times but 6 guards with the rare mage support at the outposts near major towns only. Which was the primary reason for sending groups such as our out on a circuit. This allowed the crown to show some force without having to pay the cost of a permanent staff. After a quick lunch at outpost 24, yes no one bothered naming them, we started our treck. The border it turned out was exactly 450 miles long and there was a single outpost ever 15 miles which made 30 outposts in total. We were beginning year the western border, the outposts ran east to west with outpost 1 being near the eastern border and outpost 30 being near the western border. The seemed backward to me but it'd been this way for nearly 100 years so I'll leave it at that. Our path was west headed toward the western border with a plan to end at outpost 30 before returning home. All and all a border trip of 90 miles over a weeks time, not a fast pace by any means.
The trip along the border was fairly uneventful for the first few days. Outposts 24, 25, 26 and 27 reported no issues at all and we really didn't stay around for more than food and a report before moving on. Things changed at outpost 28 and the change was not a good one. When we arrived at the outpost we found it deserted. While there was no sign of anything strange there were no signs of people as well. These outposts were designed to always be staffed and there were no towns or villages within 40 miles of the outpost so the chances the staff left to aid with something was small. Though there were no real valid reasons for abandoning the outpost even to help out a local town so that would have made no sense anyway. Senior mage Thoven had us take up manning the outpost while he began casting spells to try and track the outpost staff members. I had a little knowledge of the spells he was using because they fell into the space class. I knew that as long as the staff members were alive he would be able to track the direction they were in and an idea of the distance. Which was why I was surprised when he reported he was unable to track any of the staff members. At that point, he asked for my help. While both of us where not high classed space mages between the both of us we would be able to join our power and cast a more powerful tracking spell. This spell would allow us to locate the bodies of the staff members regardless of life.
To that end, he and I went a little distance away from the outpost to begin. The casting wasn't a grand affair and only took around 5 minutes to cast, at that time we knew something was going on. We located the staff members across the border near one of the larger farmsteads in Geralidian. We also knew that this family was one of the more problematic families along the border and if currently appeared as if they had captured the border guards and killed them. However why the bodies were being kept at the farmstead was a mystery. I also knew that this was going to be something major when I received this:
New Quest - Missing guards
While searching for the missing staff of outpost 28 you discovered that the dead bodies of the guards were across the border at one of the known trouble making farmsteads. Find out what happened to the guards and if needed avenge them.
Rewards: Basic knowledge to help you learn a skill
Yes, it seems this little trip through the country was going to get interesting. 'Sir we need to find out what is going on and what has happened.' I said to the Senior mage. 'You and I know there is not a good reason for their bodies to be over there unless they had something to do with it.'
'While I agree with your assessment of the issue, I cannot risk taking 4 untested and partially trained mages on a possible border raid.' Senior mage Thoven replied.
Looking at Thoven I continued. 'While that is true sir by the time we reached help and they sent someone down here the bodies would be gone and whatever they have planned would probably already have happened.'
'Sir we need to act quickly. while it is true we are not fully combat trained we do have some training and we all have knowledge of combat spells. We are all you have and you need to use us.'
Shacking his head Thoven replied 'yes you are right, I do not like this but we have little choice. Tell the others to get ready, we are crossing the border shortly.'
With that my first trip out of the kingdom and my first possible combat mission had started. The others didn't seem to share my excitement, though excitement was probably not the best description. While I was not excited per se, I was glad to finally be doing something useful. The farmstead was around 5 miles from the outpost and if would not take long for us to get there. Thoven took this time to teach us as much as he could about how were would be supporting each other. As the mage with the widest range of abilities and spells, I'd be providing support. Our earth mage would be providing protection spells while our water mage would be providing healing and attack spells as needed. Our light mage was most skilled in combat spells and along with the Senior Mage would be providing the muscle. I would fill in as needed, with access to a lot of their spells that gave us the best overall coverage for most of the issues we could think of.
30 minutes later we approached the farmstead and that is when things really took a turn and it was in the wrong direction.