“So what do I do now? Can I still go to my family and Rose?” Alex asked in confusion, unsure of what his own role was since he had not properly awakened to be part of the trainees but was also not an invalid.
The elder got a pained look on his face for a moment and turned to Alex and calmly stated. “Unfortunately not, Alex. Your new skills will be too important in the coming battle. If you are truly able to manipulate mana freely and can replicate the effects of scrolls without the scrolls themselves then you should be capable of creating truly powerful magic. Magic capable of affecting an entire battlefield! But of course, we must first find your limits and how to expand them.” The elder stated.
For a split second, Alex wanted to argue but he decided against it immediately. The town's safety was more important than meeting up with his family, and of course, they were part of the town too. ‘The elder is right though, this power will be capable of fantastical things in the future and I need to nurture it.’ He smiled wryly and thought ‘well I guess you get to be the best swordsman after all Rose. But I will become the first true wizard!’
The elder continued. “Are you familiar with Jeod the scholar? The one who lives in a workshop on the west side?”
“I have heard of him before but I have never met him, no. Do you think he might be able to help me out?” Asked Alex curiously. He had assumed this would be mostly self-discovery work.
“If anyone can my boy, he can. Jeod can get a bit obsessed with a project at times but he thinks outside the box and has discovered a lot of useful things about some of the magical plants and ores and such available in this world.”
“Ok Elder, I will head there next then. As my mother is no doubt part of the militia do you think you could have my little sister brought to Jeod’s as well?” Alex asked hopefully.
“I see no reason not to send her over. If all goes well nowhere in town should be any safer or more dangerous than any other part and that way she has a familiar face to help watch over her. I will send word to her and your mother now.” Replied the elder in a soft tone. “Keep in mind Jeod can be a little… driven, at times. Especially with something new or interesting. Be careful not to let him push you too far and make sure you get some sleep soon, it is quite late.”
“Now off with you! I’ve got much to do and we both know so do you.” He said in a commanding tone, signaling the end of the conversation.
“Yes, sir!” Said Alex with respect as he turned and left the garden through its outside gate. ‘Time to find Jeod and then get some real practice going! I can’t wait.’ He thought excitedly.
A short time later Alex stood before a medium sized two story building. Many of the buildings in town, considering they were founded on the outskirts of the old world city they were named after, were either partially converted old world buildings that had managed to survive or brand new buildings as well which were made of wood.
Alex was told that Jeod’s workshop was a converted bank, a place that people used to store money he was told. Alex had a hard time imaging why they wouldn’t just keep their money with them but whatever, much of the old world stuff no longer made sense to the younger generations. Some they were touch about but much of the knowledge was no longer useful and there was just too much to learn that was actually useful.
The building had wood all across the front bottom floor where giant windows used to span while the top was a solid concrete square. This was one of the few buildings that had managed to avoid having a tree sprout right through it during the cataclysm but it still got its fair share of vines and such coming through the floors and walls.
This place had long ago been chosen to do alchemical experiments when it was found that some of the new plants and materials could be quite explosive and destructive when used in certain ways, so they used the vault here to keep them secure from thieves or fearless teenagers.
“Knock knock knock” sounded out as Alex began knocking on the front door. Alex thought he could hear a faint “….oming!” Sound out from within the building but was unsure. “Knock knock knock” he repeated and this time he heard what sounded like a stack of books or boxes falling over inside and then someone yelling out in surprise.
“Coming! Coming!” The voice yelled. Suddenly the door swung open and what stood there was a middle-aged Caucasian man about five foot ten, of average build and with dark brown hair and eyes. He had some stubble growing on his chin but his eyebrows were oddly singed off, with some small burns still visible in the area. He wore long brown pants, brown boots and a tan button-up shirt under a vest full of dozens of crudely sewn on pockets. “Who are you?” He demanded in a curt tone. He did not like to be disturbed in the middle of a project.
‘Man, this guy is even more eccentric than I had heard.’ Thought Alex to himself while he took in Jeod’s appearance and mannerisms. ‘There's only one way to deal with these types.’ He thought slyly, a grin creeping onto his face. “I’m sorry to bother you kind sir but I was told you might be able to give me some information about an odd phenomenon I keep seeing.” Alex replied while trying his best to sound like a shy child.
“Is that all? I am a very busy man, boy! What bauble or trinket or odd plant do you have that is causing this phenomenon as you say? A light bug in a jar? A spinning daisy?” Jeod continued to rattle off a few of the common things that children tried to ask him about how they worked on a fairly regular basis.
Alex listened calmly to the first few items but while Jeod spoke he simply lifted his hand in front of his hand, extended his pointer finger up with the rest of his hand in a fist, and conjured a small fireball above it about the size of his fingernail. Jeod suddenly stopped talking mid-sentence and stared slack-jawed at Alex, eyes bulging with wonder. Alex then shot the fireball straight up in the air at max speed and conjured a ball of water in the same spot.
“I-I-I-I-uh-uh-um… ahhhh-um-“ Jeod was having quite a lot of trouble producing a coherent sentence, his surprise so great.
Alex had a wicked thought and expanded the water orb slightly before hovering it above Jeod’s head and releasing his control. The cups worth of water fell down onto him and, as Alex had intended, finally knocked him out of his stupor.
“How did you do that!” Jeod yelled. “Wait, no, inside! Quickly now quickly.” Jeod suddenly ran around Alex and began pushing him into the house with his hands on his shoulders. Alex stumbled for a moment at first but went along with it since the elder had recommended he come here. Once they got inside Jeod turned around and shut the door before spinning back around to Alex and studying him hard.
They were now standing in a big open room with several different desks pushed up against the walls each piled high with what seemed to be an entirely different craft. There was a flight of steps against the far wall leading up and a door leading deeper into the back of the building.
One of the desks contained a complicated series of pipes and tubes of various materials and a few beakers of unidentified liquids. Another table was covered in all sorts of flowers, roots, mushrooms, berries and so on. Yet another had the biggest pile of spell scrolls Alex had ever seen. ‘Those must have cost a small fortune!’ He thought to himself in wonder.
“I get bothered by the local children so often I was not even paying attention to your appearance at first but once I did I can see much has happened to you. How on earth did you manage to change your eyes and ears like that? Did you freely cast that fire and water magic? I heard no incantation nor did I see any scrolls or artifacts in hand.” He quickly rattled off a serious of questions. This was a big discovery!
“My name is Alex by the way, nice to meet you. Jeod, I presume?” Alex asked politely despite Jeod himself skipping introductions.
Jeod’s eyes lit up for a moment “Ah, sorry sorry, where are my manners. Yes, my name is Jeod Silver-tongue, best scholar in town and heading our research in various directions. With so many new plants and combinations available out there Alchemy has been my major studying point and some of the potions able to be made have quite miraculous effects indeed.”
“I also work on trying to find out the secrets of the spell scrolls and how to replicate the effect without the full process. No luck on that front unfortunately though.” He spoke passionately about his work before suddenly stopping and switching gears in a split second. “Would you like anything to drink? Tea? Water? Maybe a snack?” He asked with his head cocked to the side slightly. While he waited for a response he pulled a handful of some sort of berry out of one of the many many pockets lining his vest and began to eat.
‘Wow his work is impressive but this guy is hard to nail down. He goes from thought to thought like a hummer bird between flowers, but his work has proven that he is capable despite his… eccentricities.’ Alex thought to himself as he listened to Jeod talk. “I am fine, thank you. To answer a few of your questions, I am the cause of that System message earlier today. I am no longer human but a new branch of humanity called the Archons, and that’s not all.” He paused a moment to make sure Jeod could keep up with so many revelations at once.
“I am also an Arcanist, the first Arcanist, making me the first true magician in this world according to the Architect.” Alex continued.
“Architect!?” Jeod suddenly yelled out. “Do you mean Architect as the name implies? Someone in charge of the System!?” He reached out and grabbed Alex’s shoulders and stared deep into his eyes.
“Y-yes. I do not know if he is the creator of it but he claimed to be in charge of humanity. He did not allow me to speak back or ask questions, only listen, so my knowledge is limited.” Alex said nervously. Jeod had startled him somewhat and his fervent attitude was a bit creepy at times.
“Even with this sparse information simply knowing that there is an intelligent being behind the System is BIG!” Jeod yelled and threw his arms up in the air. “This changes nothing for us day to day but the implications for the future….” He trailed off in thought and stared off into the distance.
Alex turned around briefly to see where Jeod was staring but it was just a blank wall. “Um, Jeod? Are you ok?” Alex timidly asked. When he got no response he said again, louder, “JEOD!” And finally shook the man out of his contemplation.
“Ah! Sorry! Apologies, these are just a lot of revelations at once. I have spent years trying to find signs of some of this or how to use magic properly and you waltz up as a living bundle of information and magical aptitude. It was a bit jarring, but I promise I will be professional from here on out.” Jeod said in a serious voice while shaking his head in a yes motion. “I assume that bothersome old man sent you here?” He asked next with a bit of annoyance in his voice.
Alex smiled as he responded, “Yes, he thought that you of all people might be best suited to help me discover the capabilities and limits of my powers in a short time so that I can be of use during the upcoming siege.”
“Siege? What siege?” Jeod asked curiously.
“Did you not see the full mobilization flare in the air? Or hear the dozens of people yelling and running around outside trying to organize as quickly as possible?” Alex asked dumbfounded. ‘How could he have not noticed? Nobody could sleep through all this noise and the flare was bright enough to light up this building as if it were mid-day even despite the boards on the first floor.’
“No, before you knocked I was busy studying the effects of adding stinkhorn to boiled healweed and seeing how they would interact. A full mobilization though you say? It’s been quite a while since we experienced one of those. I'm sure it’ll be fine though.” He said in a nonchalant voice with a flip of his hand. “Anyway, that is not important. I will certainly do my best to discover everything there is to know about your magic and physical changes.” Jeod said as he turned around and began walking away mid-sentence. Suddenly he stopped and turned to face Alex again. “What are you doing? We don’t have all day now. Come along, come along.” He said and continued walking without waiting for Alex to respond or to even see if he started following him.
‘Sigh.’ Alex thought to himself. ‘I hope for that old man's sake that Jeod is worth the trouble…’ Resigned to his fate, Alex followed Jeod deeper into his workshop and mentally prepared himself for the worst.