“As expected, the common folk go through such terrifying trials in order to survive this cruel world,” Rowen moaned as he felt the pain of exertion in his arms.
His melancholy was quickly broken by the sounds of giggles behind his back. He turned to find Milly smiling at him with her arms folded.
“How Rowen, I’ve never heard anyone complain so arrogantly before about washing dishes. I have to remember some of what you say; they are much then any I’ve come up with before.”
The last two weeks, Rowen had gotten used to the little devil of The Knifed Zombie. Fred was the best, and only, boss Rowen had ever had. Rowen compared Fred to the battle-master who had trained him in the castle ever since he was young.
Fred not only taught Rowen how to do common chores, he even set up a small are for Rowen to practice with a sword. Even when Rowen messed up, Fred patiently taught him what he did wrong and how to do it better. Rowen was rather satisfied with his current existence, if it were not for the devil in the house.
Contrary to the belief of most in town, including Fred, Milly was a very cunning person. Privately, Rowen was amazed how Milly was able to handle a crowd. During business hours, her personality was cute and adorable, endearing herself to the many older men. When alone with her father, she was sweet, considerate, and loving.
However, when she was with Rowen, she showed her true colors. Milly mercilessly subjected Rowen to hard work and repetition while she taught him how to speak. On a few occasions, she had even denied him food until he finished his exercises! She was also quite cutting with her words when it came to him, and she seemed to take great amusement teasing him and telling him he had a long way to go with everything.
Rowen sighed, “I’m still resentful you made me tell you.”
“What, that you are a prince?” she laughed at him, “Sure, and I’m your hidden sister.”
Rowen rolled his eyes at her, “My sister is much prettier than you.”
Milly frowned at him and scoffed, “Fine then, since you have no gratitude to your teacher, I guess you aren’t interested in what I have to say.”
“Not really,” Rowen muttered as he washed the next dish.
Milly’s frown flipped into a sparkling smile, “Even if it involved learning about magic?”
Rowen’s hands paused for a moment before he gritted his teeth and continued to wash.
Milly skipped over to the window next to Rowen and leaned he back against it. She peaked at Rowen as she continued, “You know, I go to classes held by the Adventurer’s Guild to learn basic skills. I’ve taken classes about cooking and sewing before. Tomorrow, our class is going to host a real mage to lecture about magic and see if any of us have any talent for it. I happen to have one slip to invite someone with me . . .” Milly’s eyes turned to check Rowen’s face.
Rowen grunted and continued washing, “Your dad needs me to peel potatoes tomorrow for the meal. I’m too busy.”
Milly bunched up her head in thought, “Well, I guess if I felt generous enough to offer my help with those potatoes. . .”
Now, Rowen turned his head to look at Milly. He frowned, “Why don’t you invite one of your other friends? I’m sure there are others you play with that are more fun than I am.”
Milly looked down, her face depressed. “Fine; I’ll do that then.” Getting angry, she glared at Rowen and went, ‘hmph’, before storming off and slamming the door behind her.
Rowen sniffed at the door and went back to work. “No way I’d go with you,” he muttered, “Bad enough I have to put up with your teasing when you’re home. This prince has enough sense to avoid such an obvious trap.”
Sometime later, Rowen was swinging the practice sword at the target when Fred knocked on the wall.
“Hey Rowen, take a break for a moment,” he called out to Rowen. Rowen finished his swing and then placed the practice sword next to the target. He turned and bowed respectfully to Fred.
Fred scoffed and waved his hand dismissively, “I’m not your master boy, no need for all that formality. Anyway, I want to talk to you about Milly.”
Rowen’s face tensed, but he joined Fred on the wall.
Fred sighed and scratched his head, “You’ve been here a few weeks now Rowen. I’m sure you’ve seen how much I love my daughter.”
Rowen began to pale, “Um, I didn’t do anything to her sir!”
Fred raised his eyebrow and eyed Rowen. After a moment, he chuckled and nodded, “Ay, I know that young one. I doubt you have the strength to do anything to her anyway.”
He continued as Rowen frowned resentfully, “Back to what I was saying, Milly is my special girl. I lost her mother when Milly was young, and it took me years to recover from the depression. When this town was created, I took it as a sign and used the savings from my adventurer days to buy some land and open this tavern. The only issue is that I took Milly away from her friends.”
Fred folded his arms, “In a town of adventurers, merchants, and craftsmen there aren’t many children due to the remote nature of the place. Milly goes to learn from the Adventurer’s Guild, but none of the children who also go live here. They’re either the younglings of nobles or merchants and won’t associate with a commoner’s youngling. Well, they try to get close to her for her beauty, but that’s when I normally make my introduction.” The sound of knuckles cracking made Rowen flinch.
“So, you want me to be Milly’s friend?” Rowen ventured, “I mean, she’s 3, no 4 years older than I am. I don’t think she’d have too much fun with me.”
Fred patted Rowen’s head, “Contrary to what you believe, I know how she treats you. I haven’t seen her have so much fun in years.”
Rowen gave Fred a look.
Fred dropped his fist on Rowen’s head, “Oy brat, don’t give me that look. Remember who is giving you a job and a place to sleep!” He coughed and continued, “Anyway, I’ve watched how you two interact. She’s open with you in a way she isn’t to me. I actually watched her practice teaching in her room to help you learn. She enjoys your company, even if she has a strange way of showing it. You’re also mature for your age, so she can talk to you in a way she can with no one else. I wish you would go with her tomorrow, but I won’t make you if you don’t want to.” With that said, Fred left Rowen to his thoughts.
Rowen walked over to a hay bale and sat down, thinking to himself.
“Mother Claire, what should I do?” he asked through the dungeon mind link.
Claire was silent for a moment before replying, “I know how that girl feels. I was an only child and was only friends with the plants in my mother’s house. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to make her happy, and Doc would really appreciate the chance to learn about magic from a professional.”
“Go, go, go!” Doc called in the background before Claire blocked his voice.
Rowen tilted his head and thought for a moment, “Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt too much. This prince should magnanimous once and a while.”
He plopped down off the bale and left the practice area. After wandering around for a few minutes, he found Milly sulking in her room. She was twirling on of her practice knives on the floor, sighing every time it lost momentum and fell over. Rowen knocked on the door, drawing her attention. She frowned at him.
“What do you want?” she asked angrily.
Rowen rolled his eyes at her, “Your dad said I could have the day off tomorrow. Is the invitation still available?”
“No,” Milly sniffed and turned away from Rowen with her arms folded, “I’m giving it to Mr. Bubbles.”
“Who is Mr. Bubbles?” Rowen asked, confused. He’d never heard such a weird name before in his life.
Milly turned and stuck her tongue at him, “Mr. Bubbles is my friend and always does whatever I want. He’ll be joining me at the academy from now on.”
Rowen shrugged, “Okay. I’ll go tell your dad then.”
As he turned to leave, however, Milly quickly called, “Wait!”
Rowen turned back and raised an eyebrow in question. Raising an eyebrow to ask a question was one of the tricks he learned from his father.
Milly fidgeted, “Well, maybe Mr. Bubbles won’t be able to make it tomorrow. Would you come with me?” Her last words were almost whispered.
Rowen watched her, and saw a figure overlapping with her image; his older sister, smiling sadly at him as she left to marry a foreign king. Rowen forced himself to not tear-up and took in a deep breath.
“I would be honored to come with you to learn magic,” he said calmly.
Milly perked up and smiled triumphantly at him, “Hmph, it doesn’t really sound like you want to go. Why don’t you ask me a little better?”
Rowen grit his teeth, but said, “Please allow me to accompany you tomorrow milady.”
Milly turned her nose up in the air, “Well, if you insist. Your manners are that of a prince anyway, so I might as well reward such good behavior. Leave me vassal, so that I may get ready for the dinner shift.”
Rowen felt his heart twitch at the change in events, but left the room and closed the door. As he tried to make sense of what had just happened, he heard a happy squealing from inside the closed door. He couldn’t stop himself from smiling involuntarily.
The next day, Rowen had barely enough time to prepare before Milly grabbed his arm and hauled him out into the busy morning road. Fred waved cheerfully from behind the bar as they left.
As Milly led Rowen through the crowd into Iron Town, she began to talk away about her experiences: from watching the town grow up into what it was today to the invasion of the undead dungeon.
“It was really scary, especially with all the skeletons and zombies!” she told Rowen seriously, “People were screaming and running around; I thought all sorts of things were going to happen.”
Rowen, who was saddened as he heard about the undead dungeon, asked, “Didn’t you kill a zombie though? That’s why your father is changing the name of the tavern, so you couldn’t have been that scared.”
Milly frowned, a slight red glow appearing in her eyes, “It was scary, but the idea of losing Poppa was even scarier. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to him, and I won’t let anything happen to him.”
Rowen winced as her grip tightened around his wrist, “Milly let go, you’re hurting me!”
The red in her eyes disappeared and Milly let go, a bit startled. She rubbed her head sheepishly, “I’m sorry Rowen, I get really tense when it comes to my Poppa. He’s the only family I have left, and we love each other a lot.”
Rowen checked his wrist and, finding nothing wrong, smiled in understanding.
“Family is important, I fully empathize with that feeling,” he said to her, “Wait, I think that’s the first time you’re apologized to me.”
Milly winked, “I won’t make a habit of it. Now come on, I don’t want to be late!”
When they reached the guild, Rowen wasn’t too impressed. The building was only two floors high, with what looked like a singular room for a possible third floor. The roof was red, like the other buildings, and was made of stone and wood.
Milly led him inside and into a side room filled with chairs and tables. “Here, sit next to me!” she told him as they took seats in the middle of the room. A few boys who were already there eyed Rowen curiously, and some girls began whispering to each other. Rowen noticed no one was offering a greeting to Milly.
“It’s okay,” she said when she noticed him looking around, “They think me strange for killing a zombie with a throwing knife. Some even say I have magic powers.” Milly giggled at that, as if it were a private joke.
As more and more kids began to fill the room, Rowen picked up a faint hint of blood-thirst. His eyes eventually landed on a fancy looking boy glaring at him from across the room. When their eyes met, the boy sneered and turned to face the front of the room.
‘How odd,’ Rowen thought, ‘What did I do to him?’
With that thought though, a teacher entered the room and drew everyone’s attention.
“Okay class, welcome to today’s lesson. Now, I am very happy to introduce someone who is very experienced in the ways of magic. Please welcome our very own guild-master, Master Mary herself!”
The class was filled with gasps and clapping as a beautiful elf woman entered the room. Rowen held his breath; someone that strong could possibly see he wasn’t ordinary.
“You’re okay Rowen, don’t panic,” Claire reassured him through the bond, “Your bond is spiritual, not magical, so she shouldn’t be able to see a difference. Well, maybe?”
Rowen didn’t feel any better.
He watched as Mary held up a hand to quiet the class. She smiled at them, “Greetings young ones and welcome to my introduction to magic. Now, who knows what magic is?”
A boy raised his hand, “Magic is power!”
Mary shook her head, “That is only part of the answer; anyone else?”
This time, a girl raised her hand, “Magic is life itself?”
Mary shook her head again, “No, magic can affect life and create pseudo-life, but it is not actual life.”
The fancy boy who had sneered at Rowen raised his hand now, “Magic is a force of nature that exists all around us and in us.”
Mary nodded, “Correct, magic is indeed a force of the world around us and can be found within and around us. Now, magic is merely a word used to refer the effects of using mana. Mana is an ethereal substance, the source of all magic. When a mage casts magic, he draws upon the words of his spell to channel his inner mana into whatever form magic he is casting.”
Another boy held up his hand, “Why are there so many different schools of magic? Shouldn’t it all be the same?”
Mary grinned, “Well, if most beings had the ability to live long enough to master multiple forms of magic, I’m sure there would be less schools.” She chuckled as the class paled slightly, “I jest, but at the same time I am not. Magic can be channeled in many forms, and the stronger one gets in an area of magic, the more specific their magic becomes. For instance, a powerful fire mage is unlikely to be able to cast witch curses.”
She waved down the hands that flew up, “Yes, I will now explain some of the many different types of magic. Most of you are familiar with elemental magic, the magic of nature. These are also embodied by the gods and goddess of order, however using this magic does not mean you follow said god or goddess. Elemental magic is the most basic type, allowing a mage to control the world around them. Fireballs, breathing underwater, flying through the air, or traveling through the ground are all good examples of elemental magic.”
“Next is enchantment, the magic of support. Wielding this type of magic allows one to imbue magic into objects. This can increase a person’s ability to inflict damage or take it. It also lends its power to creating items, as the magic bags carried by adventurers are enchanted to be able to hold more than they are originally capable of.”
“Control magic is the third school of magic. This type of magic enables the caster to manipulate other things both inanimate and animate. It includes puppetry, beast taming, necromancy, golem creation, charm, and other mental enchantments. Due to some of the magic within this class, the group is regarded as being the most dangerous school.”
“Curses and Blessings both belong to the school of body magic. This school allows one to manipulate their inner mana to improve or hinder the physical ability of a single person or a group of people. Naturally, this school also includes the magic of armor manifestation, force of will, healing, and a few other.”
“The last school of magic is divine magic, which requires both a certain level of faith and mana. Divine magic is granted by the gods and goddesses, and thus cannot be cast if they do not hold you in favor. A person can cast a number of spells from the other schools of magic so long as their god or goddess holds sway over that branch of magic. For instance, Father Jonas her in the Dungeon Town follows Duren and is a master of wind magic. However, he cannot cast other elemental magic, as those are the purview of the other gods and goddesses of order.”
“These are the five main schools of magic, are there any questions?” Mary asked the class.
“Isn’t control magic evil?” someone called out from the back of the class.
Mary shook her head, “While control magic holds the greatest temptation of evil deeds, it in itself is not inherently evil. Like all magic, it is a tool that depends on the person who wields it for direction. Now,” she interrupted the questions, “Who would like to learn a simple spell to complete today’s lesson?”
Everyone raised their hand.
Far in the dungeon, Doc raised a tentacle.