"So," Lily whispered as she practiced elemental barriers and the use of the Helping Hands spell, "you said that elemental magic could be the most destructively powerful a wizard could learn, but also the easiest to counter? If so, how did wizards fight in your day?" She was honestly quite curious about that. So far as she knew, elemental magic was the primary means by which you could use magic to attack an enemy. If wizards could easily dispel an opponent's attacks by using a barrier of the same element, that completely rendered elemental magic ineffective in an arcane duel.
*A fair question,* Rine replied, *and I'm glad you're asking it now rather than later. Yes, elemental magic was very easy to counter in my day, so it was largely used against targets without magical defenses, or for the sake of demonstrations of power. Blowing things up with a fireball can make a strong visual impact, compared to doing things the more practical way. Explosions are wasteful but undeniably impressive. The truth is, wizards in my age fought by creatively using what your era considers 'utility' spells.*
Keeping her voice down to make sure Madeline didn't hear them from her spot nearby, Lily asked, "Really? Like these Helping Hands?"
*Indeed,* Rine confirmed. *Before I explain, I need to clarify something important, or else you might think I'm making things up: You're still at the very beginning of your training, and we have a long road ahead of us. Clearing your conduits and learning Draconic Draining was only the very first and easiest steps towards becoming what my era considered a powerful wizard.*
*We'll need to do many exercises that will improve your ability to store, channel, and control mana, exercises that can take weeks or months to show results. So, the things I will describe will seem impossible to you, but that is only because it would be like telling a grossly obese and out of shape man from a nation that knew nothing about exercise how someone ran a mile in four minutes.*
"A weird way to put it," Lily admitted, "but I guess that makes sense. My uncle once told me that swordsmen become stronger by exercising and by practicing various techniques and styles, but that knowing all the techniques in the world is useless if you don't have the strength to pick up a sword."
Chuckling, Rine stated, *An excellent comparison in this case. Currently, you've gone from being able to hold a dagger to a fencer's foil, if we're using weapon analogies. Both are weapons capable of harming someone, but they aren't overly powerful or destructive. What I'll be describing would be what is possible for someone strong enough to hold a battleax, claymore, or warhammer, and had spent much of their life in mastering the use of that weapon. You're a long way from achieving such feats, but they're possible through training and discipline. Does that make sense?*
"I get it," Lily replied, doubling the number of barriers and Helping Hands she had going at the same time while changing the number and types of elements each one had. Rine had been right, the hands were easy and intuitive to control, more so than most spells she'd read about. Six months of study had versed the young lady with the knowledge to cast a variety of spells, now that her conduits were cleared, but they'd take time and practice to master. On the other hand, the Helping Hands were so simple to use she could get a solid understanding of their capabilities and limitations in a single morning.
As she continued training, Rine said, *Good. So, probably the simplest method of an effective assault for a mage of my era would be to use a telekinesis spell to propel a small object towards an opponent at a speed of around one thousand, eight hundred miles per hour. Pebbles were common, but metal served better, being more durable.*
Lily was glad that her back was currently turned towards Madeline so that her friend didn't see the dumbstruck expression that the young commoner wore after hearing that declaration. That... that kind of speed... she didn't even have a frame of reference for that. Nothing she could think of moved even remotely that fast. She imagined that anything going that kind of speed would do an inconceivable amount of damage to anything it struck.
*Close your mouth, apprentice,* Rine chided, *it's not that spectacular. Or I suppose maybe it is in comparison to what your civilization is currently capable of. If you put enough mana into it, you can do a great deal more with telekinesis.*
*However, at your current level of power and control, you'd only manage a feat like that if you had access to a powerful source of mana as well as far more refined control of your magic than what you're currently capable of. If you tried it right now, you'd never achieve that level of speed, and you'd have zero accuracy.*
*As to why this would be a powerful attack, well, force is a quality of mass times acceleration, and any small object traveling at that kind of speed can effortlessly penetrate flesh, bone, and most forms of mundane armor, nevermind what your era calls barriers. Of course, our method of forming barriers was a great deal more complex than what you consider the norm as well, to adapt to the power of such attacks.*
Picking back up on her training, Lily asked, "Really?"
*A basic setup would be something akin to scale mail,* Rine explained. *Imagine a small hexagonal barrier tile with no elemental charge, surrounded by six similarly shaped and sized tiles with a charge from each of the six magical elements. Now imagine each of those tiles being as small as the head of an ant, with that pattern repeated across a sphere capable of encapsulating a person. Then add about five or six additional layers, and you'd have what is considered a basic 'Wizard's Mantle'.*
*It would absorb any elemental spell thrown at it, yet would also offer a strong defense against any other assault, as it would require that any attack against you would need to have the force to break through numerous barrier tiles, rather than a single, solid barrier.*
This time, Lily was able to fight off the urge to drop her jaw in awe, if only barely. "That must have taken forever to make," Lily said, disbelieving.
*If you tried to do it using the spells and magic system you currently know, yes, it definitely would,* Rine admitted. *In my time, we'd developed a far more comprehensive and versatile system of utilizing magic, compared to your own. In this modern era, you spend most of your time learning spells, and it is considered the work of a great wizard to create one or two original spells in your lifetime. You use magic, but you don't understand much about how it works, so you have difficulty improving the spells you have.*
*Part of your training over the summer will be laying out the foundation to you for what magic is, how it works, and how it can be properly utilized.*
"It'll be a busy summer, then," Lily admitted, increasing the number of barriers and Helping Hands again while shuffling their various elements around.
*Indubitably,* Rine confirmed, *and more so than you think.*
"Oh?" Lily asked, surprised.
*You'll be the center of a lot of attention after the tournament,* Rine explained, *and we can't exactly keep coming out of the labyrinth with new things every weekend without looking suspicious. What we've got right now will work for the first year or two, but we'll need to create new equipment, and that will take time, resources, and skill.*
*We'll need objects made from mythril, adamant, and orichalcum, which will require smithing, and I am not going to expect you to do that yourself. While I could do it, that would likewise bring us undue suspicion, having such objects appear from nowhere. We need someone to make the things we need to avoid suspicion. To that end, we'll need to outsource.*
*If it comes to mythril, there are smiths amongst the elves who can work the stuff remarkably well, so finding an elfsmith will be the easiest of the three tasks. Orichalcum is often used by the beastfolk or demihumans, and while they're a rarity on this continent, there was a smith in this kingdom who might fit the bill, barring any unexpected developments since I last laid eyes upon them. As for adamant...*
"No one knows how to work that stuff, not even the dwarves," Lily said, finishing the sentence.
*Nor should they,* Rine confirmed, *given that the dwarves are strongly against all uses of magic, and powerful magic is integral to the refining and forging process of adamant. Elves have no qualms about using magic in smithing, but they have a body that is vulnerable to magic, so they can't forge adamant without becoming seriously ill.*
*Demihumans have a unique anatomy that lets them use magic in a way that is radically different from that of any other race, so while it makes them perfect for working orichalcum, it means they can't work any of the other great metals like mythril or adamant.*
*Dwarves have a constitution that allows them to be incredibly resistant to magic, so they can withstand the powerful arcane forces needed to work the metal without becoming sick. So, we'll need a dwarf, but one who is willing to either use magic or work alongside a wizard while they're smithing, which is almost unheard of anywhere on this continent.*
"So you're saying it'll be basically impossible?" asked Lily.
*No, just tricky,* Rine said, correcting her. *I know a great many secrets, and I may have an idea as to how we can get into the good graces of the dwarves, enough so that we can find a smith willing to work with a wizard on a project. However, it'll require some... shenanigans on my part to get the ball rolling. I'll handle things on my end. When I need your assistance, I'll let you know what you'll need to do.*
He paused, then chuckled and added, *Of course, you'll have the hardest task of all: Convincing an elf, a dwarf, and a demihuman to work together on a project. That may well be a feat beyond the capabilities of a wizard of any era...*