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Jerald felt the hairs on his body stand up. The air was thick of magic: Water magic.

He had been around long enough to know the 'feel' of water magic. It left the air smelling fresh and clean. Many people coveted it for its amazing status cleansing properties. In the large cities, they even used it to remove smells from the slums.

Never however, had Jerald felt water magic like this. This was pure power. It was like an ant looking at a mountain. A mountain so vast that you couldn't see the sides.

Jerald felt fear grip him. He knew they had many protections on them but started to doubt if the protections would be able to slow down, let alone stop such a power.

The fact they were not dead was a good sign.

Like someone flicking a piece of dirt, Jerald, Jeremy and the two horses flew out of the eye of the storm. The floating boy was alone with the supreme power of water surrounding him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam opened his eyes. He was in bed.
His body ached, his head was pounding and his lungs were full of hot pain.

Memories flooded back, he sat up and gasped. He started hyperventilating as he gasped at the precious air that had been denied to him in the water.

A soothing voice filled the room.

"Relax. You are safe in our home."

Sam turned to see a middle aged woman. Her face was weathered from the sun, and her hair was in a messy ponytail and she wore a simple brown dress. She was a plain looking woman except for her eyes which shone with an eerily green colour.

Sam slowed his breathing and focussed on relaxing.
He thought he had drowned? It definitely felt like that. He remembered the terror and the pain in his lungs. His head felt dizzy as he recalled the memories.

He closed his eyes and shook his head. He shouldn't think about that. He needed to get back to his friends; he could rest when he got home to his own bed. He became aware of the vast difference in comfort between his bed at home and the one he was lying in.

Who was this woman? Did she live near the dam?

He looked around the room, it was very simple. The walls did not look professionally built and were built with uneven handmade stone bricks.
Was the woman very poor and just lived by the dam? How did he end up here?

Suddenly a man walked into the room through a thin wooden door. The door seemed as if it would fall off at any moment.

The man was huge. A monster of muscle. Sam guessed he was some sort of body builder. He noticed the man’s clothes and saw that they had been knitted.

The woman’s clothes were also knitted, so was the blanket he had covering him. He suddenly became acutely aware that he wasn't wearing anything under this blanket. The blanket was itchy but the wool was soft. Where was his swimming costume?

"Hello boy, what’s your name?"

Sam looked back at the man who spoke. He wore a frown that made him look stern. His face was also weathered, more than the woman's. He had a thick black beard and wore a cap. His shirt was a stereotypical red flannel shirt. With the cap, it completed the man's obvious lumberjack. It was comically accurate like he would win a costume prize. The man even had an accent that Sam had never heard before.

The man's demeanour was not comical at all and the way he had addressed him told Sam that he shouldn't disrespect this man.

"Sam. My name is Sam Underwood, sir."

Sam hoped he had come across respectable. He knew the older folks didn’t like being disrespected by young people like him.

"Underwood? Where are you from-"

"Jerald! He just woke up. Let him relax. He has gone through a fearful experience."

The man called Jerald looked at the woman. His hard features crumbled when he looked at her, softening immediately. As if realising this, the frown quickly returned when he replied.

"That is true. Since Jeremy and I also went through a fearful experience will you stay up all night next to our beds?"

Amusement filled the man's voice and a broad smile appeared on his face. The woman rolled her eyes and stood. She had been sitting on a simple wooden stool.

"I will go check on Nightshade and Bessie. After that, I will turn in. Let the boy eat and rest. You can ask him all your endless questions tomorrow."

She turned to Sam, her voice calmer and soft.

"Jerald will get you some food. Don't strain yourself, rest as much as your body needs."

Sam nodded and spoke politely.

"Thank you for taking care of me, maam."

The woman smiled and left the room. Her hand brushed passed the man's huge arm affectionately before leaving.

Without any further word, the man followed her out the room.

He returned a few minutes later with a wooden bowl which was full of hot beef stew. There was a wooden spoon floating in it. Sam thanked the man and he left.

Sam frowned at the handmade wooden items. Did the family make everything themselves? Were they hippies?

The stew was warm and it felt good against his hands. He stared at the swirling water; its ripples were so hypnotising and relaxing.

Suddenly several messages appeared in his mind.

"Talent: [Late bloomer] gained. 30 Mastery points awarded."

"Talent: [Water Baptism] gained. Water Mastery unlocked. 15 Mastery points awarded."

"Magical Gift: [Water Baptism Ring] gained."

"Knowledge Mastery: Holder of Knowledge Level 1 gained."

"Knowledge Mastery: Holder of Knowledge Level 2 gained."

The message kept bombarding Sam's mind until he fell unconscious face first into the stew.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sam woke up in much the same way he had before: Confused, in pain and hungry.

The memory of the stew caused his stomach to feel worse than before. He looked around the room, hoping to see food.

A small candle on the floor flickered, providing soft light to the small room. The woman from earlier was sitting on the same stool. She was leaning against the wall, fast asleep.

Sam pulled off the blanket to scratch himself. The itchy blanket was annoying. Sam frowned because he was wearing pants. Had someone dressed him whilst he was asleep?
Who were these people? Was this a cult? He had so many questions.

He looked at the pants. They were scratchy and uncomfortable. He wasn’t wearing any underwear, just the scratchy homemade brown pants. He got out of the bed and put his feet on the ground. He was relieved to feel only stiffness and no pain. There was just the hunger that gnawed at his stomach.

He looked around; maybe he hadn’t seen the stew when he checked earlier?

To his disappointment, there was no stew but did see another stool closer to the bed. On it was a ring. For some reason, he knew it was called the Water Baptism Ring.

The name reminded of the messages that had appeared. There had been so much information that he felt like he had been cramming for an exam. What were those messages? Was this a new type of virtual reality game?

He sat on the edge of the bed and closed his eyes. He thought of the first words he saw before he had passed out: Talent: [Water Baptism]. He yelped in shock when a message appeared in his mind. He mentally fought against the message and it swiftly went away.

He thought of the words and again the message appeared. He was prepared this time and wasn’t surprised by the message paragraph.

Talent: [Water Baptism]: The user survived a near death experience whilst surrounded by element of water. The element of water has chosen the user to walk a certain path. Unlocks Chosen Mastery.

He blinked. It didn't make much sense. Yes, he had almost drowned but 'The element of water'? That sounded weird.

He focused on the words 'Chosen Mastery', expecting to see another paragraph.
A huge wall of grey appeared in his mind. He stared in shock at it and willed it away. He brought it back with just a thought. It really was in his mind. He studied the grey wall.

It didn’t seem to have an end to how tall it could be. He couldn’t see the end at least. Horizontal lines separated the wall into grey rows.
He realised it was a table with information at different positions. The details of many of them were blurred. The only details he could see were in the first row. On the left axis, it said 'Tier 1'. Above it was 'Tier 2'. He couldn't see any more tier numbers further than that but he guessed there were more.

He frowned. What was this thing? Sam studied it for a few minutes, trying to understand it.

It looked like a skill tree. He had seen it in some games, lower level abilities and/or passives would unlock higher levels and more powerful abilities. What made this skill tree strange was that nothing had levels; it seemed to just track events.

The Tiers separated the skill tree horizontally and then there were further vertical separators, they split the tree into several columns; all of the columns were greyed out and unreadable except one.

The visible one said 'Water' in bright blue on the bottom axis. It seemed he could only see the ‘Water’ block belonging to ‘Tier 1’. In the block was a droplet of blue water. It was split into three parts. He focussed on them to get their names.

[Water Baptism]: User must be baptised by the element of water (Completed)
[Water Apprentice]: User must become a disciple/student/apprentice of a Water Magic Master.
[Water Challenge]: (Requires Water Apprentice to unlock)

Sam blinked. According to the Chosen Mastery skill tree, he had to become a Water Apprentice. What was a Water Magic Master? What was Water Magic?

He frowned and wondered how he was going to wrap his head around that one. His thoughts were interrupted by someone clearing their throat quietly right next to him.

Sam stood up in fright, knocking his head on something hard. There was a splash and a loud bang followed by the sound of a spoon hitting the stone floor.

He looked around whilst rubbing his head. On the floor was a split bowl of stew, steam could be seen coming off it. In front of Sam, stood Jerald with a look of annoyance on his face.

The woman woke up due to the noise and stood nearby, looking confused.

"Boy, I would swear you don't want to eat."

Jerald stared down Sam.

Sam suddenly felt very small. Jerald didn't let up his stare so Sam spoke.

"I’m very sorry, sir. It wasn't on purpose. I was just lost in thought..."

"You can call me Uncle. You can call her Aunty. I don’t want any of that noble sir business in this house. Now I do not tolerate lies in this household. You were looking at your Masteries, were you not?"

Jerald's face was firm, showing no further emotion.

Sam blinked in confusion. The man knew about the skill trees? It seemed they were called Masteries. He had so many questions. His excitement grew but was abruptly deflated when worry flooded his mind. Where was he?

Realising that Jerald was still waiting, Sam replied.

"Yes I was, Uncle. I didn't mean to lie... I was wondering if you could tell me where this house is."
Sam kept his respectful tone. Both of them had been so nice to him and he hoped to eventually get food.

Jerald frowned. It was Jerald’s wife who answered without hesitation. She had followed their conversation with interest.

"You are in our home. Situated on the Underwood family farm. I am Annabelle and this is Jerald. You haven't met our son Jeremy yet but he helped save you from drowning in the pond."

Annabelle noticed that he was eagerly listening so she continued.

"The closest town is Haventown to the North-West. This region’s capital is Thistlevale on the coast to the South-West. Where are you from Sam?"

With his knowledge of geography and the information he had received, he knew was not anywhere near home. They had saved him from a pond? Things were getting weirder and weirder. He needed to deflect.

"I am Sam Underwood. Unfortunately I am not sure where my home is from here or what direction it is."

Vague and not a direct lie. Hopefully it would work.

"An Underwood? I do not know of any descendant called Sam. What town are you from?"
A frown followed Jerald's words.

"New Jersey."

Both of them looked at him oddly. Annabelle answered with a smile.

"You sure you didn't make that up Sam? If you don't remember, it is ok."
Sam looked at both of them. He wasn’t sure what to tell them. He was from New Jersey but it didn’t seem to be anywhere near here.

Jerald spoke after Sam didn’t say anything.

"We will not harm you Sam. Personally we could use the help around the farm. Jeremy could always benefit from someone closer to his age. However, we do not want to bring danger into this home, whether it is from nobles, bandits or your unknown past."

Jerald took a deep breath and continued.

"Now there is something else I would like to discuss. Jeremy and I witnessed your Water Baptism when carrying you home..."

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A note from twigthe1st

Some knowledge of the Mastery System, more to follow. Please let me know If there is anything unclear. The Chosen Mastery is a bit special.

If anyone knows any cool software I can use to visually create a skill tree please let me know. Would love to create a visual representation.

#Edit: Renamed Ring of Wonder to Water Baptism Ring.Typo of Sam's name. Missing word 'call'


About the author

twigthe1st

Bio: I enjoy writing. It is a outlet I use to flex my creative muscles :)
I am currently writing my first web novel called The Mastery System.

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