With much muttering and grumbling, the guards left us again. Artemis somehow found herself a chair, swiveled it around, and sat on it backwards, looking at me.
“You must desperately want to be a mage. Most kids get scared off after that demonstration.” Artemis started. She paused a moment or two, collecting her thoughts.
“Fine. Magic breakdown time. First off, I don’t know much about healing, you’ll have to ask him” she jerked her thumb at the still-nameless healer treating dad. “But for the rest of it, here’s the basics. First, mages are broadly categorized into ‘power’ or ‘control’, based off of, you guessed it, if power or control is their primary focus. Corresponding to that, high mana goes with high power, and control mages tend to focus on regeneration. Onto elements, the basics:
Fire are flames and burning and heat. They’re almost always power-focused, since power lets you keep skills coherent further away from you. A control-based mage can really only handle stuff near herself.
Water is versatile. It’s the jack of all trades, it can do a bit of everything, but none of those things super well. I think there’s minor healing in it, and someone who can conjure water up is priceless in the wilderness. Like water itself, you have to be flexible with it. Not the best in my opinion.”
The healer helping dad made a strangled noise at this. No bets what his affiliation was.
“Light is useless for a mage. It’s the primary element of healers, and it’s got a bunch of secondary uses – mostly making light – but it doesn’t hurt anyone. Can’t stop a rampaging bear by blinding it.
Dark is nasty. It’s destruction and removal. Some mage throws a [Dark Blast] at you, you duck. Apparently, this is also used by healers, but I have no idea what for.
Wood is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s great for skills, and you can do some really powerful stuff with it, but it lacks some of the oomph that other affiliations can give you. It also has some powerful secondaries. It’s a bit of a risk going down a wood-mage path, but it can pay off in the long run.” Artemis paused. “If you survive.”
That wasn’t ominous at all.
“Metal and Earth are ridiculously powerful for mages, and they act in a similar way. As you saw earlier, a rock going fast enough can and will destroy most everything, and you don’t need to continue focusing on the skill once it’s launched. Earth and Metal [War Mages] form the backbone of our oh-so-glorious legions.” Artemis rolled her eyes at this last part. Strange that she wasn’t a fan of the army in spite of being IN the army.
“Lastly, there’s Wind. It’s a bit of a mixed bag again. I’d never want to fight a Wind mage in close-quarters – they’d rip me up, and my face is far too pretty for that. However, they lack oomph at longer ranges. Unless they’re clever.” Artemis grimaced. There was a story there for sure!
The healer was no longer working with dad, instead they were deep in an intense conversation. Dad looked crushed.
“Why not be both power and control?”
Artemis gave me a look like I had asked the stupidest question. Maybe I had.
“You can be mixed, but instead of getting the strengths of both power and control, you get the weakness of both without the corresponding strengths. You end up not being long range, not having the oomph, and not having the devastation at shorter ranges. You do get to be flexible, and there’s some merit to that. You can try to do both, but generally end up dead sooner rather than later.”
I thought about that some. Flexibility sounded pretty good, even if it wasn’t min-maxing a particular trait. Artemis seemed to think differently, and she was the battle-hardened [Mage]. She probably had good reasons backing her thinking.
“What about Lightning? And Verdant?”
“Lightning and Verdant aren’t primary elements, they’re secondary. They’re advanced, or evolved, or merged elements. Whatever.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 6!]
I wanted to learn everything in the world if it was this easy to level up [Learning]. I just needed access to books – or scrolls, as it seemed to be, still hadn’t seen a single book – and I could get [Learning] to a super high level!
“Lightning however lets me shoot lightning bolts, let me show y – “
“DON’T YOU DARE” roared dad, the healer, Catonus, and another guard who was passing by. The sheer force of the yell made me wince and cover my ears, and seemed to punch through and get to Artemis, as she looked contrite.
Dad and the healer seemed to have finished up, and the healer decided that an ounce of prevention was worth several pounds of lightning-struck locals, so he wandered over, grousing at Artemis.
“Muscle heads! All of you army folks are muscle heads! And filling her head with incomplete knowledge, which is WORSE than no knowledge at all!” throwing his hands up in frustration. “All you know how to do is blow things up! You’ll lead her down a terrible path, we don’t need people BLOWING THINGS UP IN THE MIDDLE OF TOWN.” That last bit seemed really pointed at Artemis, and I couldn’t blame him – Artemis was the type. Artemis just laughed it off. Not a shred of guilt there, nope. Almost seemed happy about the whole thing. Notes, I needed to take notes. Notes on magic. Notes on how to be a badass.
“Healing magics are much more important than destruction. Any idiot can kill someone else; it takes skill and talent to heal someone. You need education and knowledge to properly know how to heal, not just throw a stone at someone. Listen Elaine, let me tell you about healing elements, don’t follow after Artemis.” I nearly dismissed everything he had to say at that point, almost zoning out entirely. My idea of becoming a healer like mom though wasn’t dead, and I hadn’t gotten anything like this knowledge from her, so I decided to listen.
“Light magic is what most people think of when they hear ‘healer’. It speeds up healing speeds, can invigorate and energize others, and at really high levels, can even restore lost limbs. It’s how you add to the four humors to bring them back into balance.”
“Darkness is the other side of the coin to light. Instead of restoring, it destroys. It can destroy poisons, remove rotted limbs, and when a humor is too far out of balance or someone has too much blood, it can destroy or remove it.”
I frowned at this. Medical knowledge here was awful, and if education and knowledge really were that critical to working healing magic, and they were this wrong about it… there were implications there that I couldn’t quite work out.
“There’s a lot of debate on if wood should be considered a healing element or not” the healer continued to pontificate. “I personally consider it valid, if a bit unusual, as a healing element.” He continued to drone on a bit, diving into the history of the argument, and the cases for and against it being considered a healing element. My eyes wandered, and met Artemis’s, a bolt of lightning going across her eyes. She grinned at me, that same maniacal grin she always had, and I tried to mimic her.
Artemis rudely interrupted the healer with “Hey! Maybe you should TELL HER what’s so good about wood, instead of telling her the debate about it. You lost her 10 minutes ago!”
Healer had the good graces to look embarrassed, coughed, and got back on track.
“ahem, yes, well, wood is great for dealing with, and making medicines and potions. Some are good for boosting how quickly you heal, some can neutralize poisons, others can balance humors. The element itself, directly applied, can also revitalize a person. It does the same as directly healing, but it’s indirect, so argued over.”
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Anatomy] has reached level 5!]
Why did that level up? Was it just thinking about how humans actually worked, and not the humor BS that he was spouting?
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Learning] has reached level 7!]
“Lastly, there’s water, the best healing element.” Artemis rolled her eyes at this. “While not as directly powerful as any of the healing elements, it’s flexible, able to mimic and perform like all of them. That clearly makes it the best element for healing.”
Artemis cut in. “You should also mention it’s horribly inefficient at all of those.”
“But it’s an efficient use of class elements, of which we only get two.”
“You can always dual-class as a healer, like you dual-class anything else.”
“There are REASONS healers don’t dual-class! It’s absurd! Why, - “I tuned out their bickering, and walked over to dad.
“Soooo” I said, drawing it out, feeling guilty that he got hurt over me. “please don’t tell mom?” I was in so much trouble when we got home if dad ratted me out. “I’ll do the cleaning and make your favorite food and oil your leathers and do anything else you want just don’t tell mom please!” I hit him with my best puppy dog eyes, 100% guaranteed to melt a parent’s heart.
“Elaine” Dad’s voice was heavy. Uh oh. There was no WAY I was going to avoid mom’s wrath. No delicious dinner for me. “We’re not completely sure yet, but it seems like I’ve lost the eye. I have to tell mom.”
I must have something in my ears. It sounded like dad just said he lost an eye. That was impossible, dad was invincible, it was just a lousy pest.
“Hey dad, can you say that again? It sounded like you said you lost an eye, ha-ha. That’d be terrible if that happened.” I tittered nervously, horror starting to creep up on me.
“Yeah Elaine. You heard me right – my left eye doesn’t work anymore. The wind weasel nearly cut it in half. The healer doesn’t think he can fix it. It’s ok though, I don’t need two eyes to be a guard.”
Bloody USELESS healer. ‘oh, look at me, I’m a water healer, I can’t fix shit’. Bah. I should rip his eyes out, replace dad’s with them. At least he would USE them. Hang on, with magic, was it even possible to replace an eye like that? What did I remember about eyes… there was a lens, the eyeball itself, an optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain. There was a lot more, but I just didn’t know it.
[*Ding!* Congratulations! [Anatomy] has reached level 6!]
That confirmed it, mentally reviewing anatomy knowledge would get me levels in [Anatomy]. That was useful, I needed to file that away for later. Wait, he mentioned something about light magic being able to restore lost limbs?
I ran over and interrupted Artemis’s and the healer’s heated argument. “Healer healer healer.” I said, tugging on his arm. I murdered the embarrassment I had for not knowing his name and acting like a little kid in front of Artemis with a burning desire to fix dad. “Do you know a light mage that can fix dad’s eye?”
He looked at me, and the look on his face told me everything. “A strong control-based light healer might – MIGHT – be able to fix your dad’s eye. He’d need a very high control level, and quite a bit of knowledge. He’d be expensive, and there’s nobody in Aquiliea that I know of that can do it. I’m sorry, it’s not your fault.” Almost as an afterthought “My name is Meditacus, not ‘healer.’” Ahh, snooty was back.
“You’re USELESS” I cried out, flailing with my little fists. He just looked sad; he didn’t even have the good grace to look like I was doing anything. My feelings of hope, the idea that dad’s eye could be restored like that was gone. I broke down crying as the enormity of what I had caused to happen washed over me. As I was bawling my eyes out, dad came over to comfort me.
“Shhhhh it’s ok… it wasn’t your fault… I’ll be fine… you won’t get in trouble with mom… maybe you’ll be a light healer and heal me, haha”
That last one caused the biggest lightbulb to go off in my head. I hadn’t yet selected a class! I had been yo-yoing between “Grand Archmage” and “Death-defying healer”, with mom pulling me towards the healer, and my dreams and the recent arrival of the all-powerful Artemis drawing me towards ‘pew pew mage’. Meditacus was right in a way, as snobbish and annoying as he was. It was much harder, and much rarer to be a healer than a mage. Destruction was easy. Creation was hard. And I was already on my way to being a healer, with [First-Aid] and [Anatomy] already. I didn’t even know the starter skills for being a [Mage]! I cheered up immensely at this. Although I should hedge my bets. My mood changed like a light switch, from miserable, to happy, and straight to curious.
“Hey Artemis, what skill did you need to get a mage class?”
If Artemis was surprised by my sudden emotional swings, she showed no sign.
“Meditate” she replied, getting up and walking over.
“Meditate?” I skeptically asked. I wasn’t about to call Artemis a liar, but I was trying and completely failing to imagine the energetic Artemis sitting calmly and meditating.
“Yup. Hey Elainus, any chance your lovely wife would be up to feeding another mouth? I’m sick and tired of army rations and wilderness ‘delights’.” Her tone made it clear that whatever wilderness delights were, delightful they weren’t. “Plus” she waggled her eyebrows “I’ll totally distract Julia from your missing eye. We can say it’s a new skill of yours – lose a body part, get an old friend for dinner!”
“It might distract her a bit, and give her another direction to vent in… fine, you’re in.” Dad mused.
“Elainus.” A gruff looking senior guardsman poked his head in. “Meditacus told me about your eye. Don’t worry about your job, we need as many guardsmen like you as possible. Take the next week off, then you’re up for combat practice. You need to get up to speed on fighting with one eye and a blind spot. Polyphemus will be training you.”
The guardsman vanished almost as fast as he had shown up. Efficient! And dad’s job was going to be ok, hurray for not starving! I hadn’t even thought of that as a possibility until just now, and stress came crashing through me, with relief just a bare moment away. What on Pallos would we have done if dad wasn’t a guard? I shivered. I had almost cost our family everything. No more dangerous outings like this.