Jennifer stood at the centre of an endless plain, the green landscape stretching infinitely in all directions. Little crystals sat all around her, glowing with a serene blue glow captured inside them, like little balls of light. Jennifer walked through the plain, watching as her surroundings shifted, mountains turning to oceans and then to vast deserts. A tower stood at the end of all these places, tall and imposing. It sat as the only fixed structure in the ever shifting landscape.
A little bird of light flew by, chirping a melodious song, one not of any language, but of magic and mana. Little trees of crystal surrounded her, as she danced amidst them, the movements were unfamiliar to her, yet her body followed along to the melody nonetheless.
A massive dragon with white scales sat nearby, as it watched. Eleven shadows sat beneath it, not visible to her. They had no claim over her, and so they had no place here.
The dragon shifted, its magic pulsed alongside the song, little threads of something seeping into the reality around it as life blossomed. There were no rules here, and so the magic flowed freely pouring into her, and then out as the cycle continued. Her movements turned more graceful, her mind completely lost to the song. A Mark shone brightly in the sky, a single thread stretching from it to her hand as the song rose to a high. The dragon spread its wings, wide enough that it covered the sky, bringing a second night to the world. It let out a roar as the crystals shattered, the blue orbs contained in them floating up as they circled Jennifer in her dance, slowly being absorbed into her.
With a final thum, the song stopped, the magic complete as the Mark shone brightly, illuminating the distant tower. Jennifer panted as the world turned to glass around her. The dragon looked at her, its reptilian eyes containing an ancient intelligence within. The world collapsed as the song ended, shattering like glass as Jennifer fell into the abyss below, darkness covering all.
Mark of Time
“Jenn? Wake up Jenn. Jennifer!”
With a start, Jennifer shot up on her desk, looking around in a panic. “Wha? I’m up, I’m up,” Jennifer blurted out as she looked at her mother standing behind her.
“Dinner’s ready Jenn, don’t fall asleep before you’ve eaten, it’s a happy day today and I’ve made your favourite dishes. Wash your face and come down, don’t be too late,” Her mother said with a smile, patting her shoulder.
Jennifer mumbled something incoherent, as she wiped the drool off her face. What time is it? She thought, blinking her eyes as she looked around at her room in a daze. The memories of her recent death flooded in all of a sudden and her eyes widened as she got up, finally shaking off the dreamlike daze.
That Hydra, and another trial. A finished one… Not to mention. What was that dream?
Jennifer looked at her desk, realising that instead of the usual method of waking up with a sudden start, she'd been asleep this time around. Something had changed between her prior restarts and this one.
Or maybe it's a one time thing. Because I went to that place. The tower and a dragon. A massive dragon.
Jennifer sighed as she slumped down onto her chair. She found it strange that she could even picture a dragon in her mind. And a depiction that seemed so accurate as well. Dragons had been dead for close to a millenium, perhaps longer. The only people who seemed to have any conclusive clue on what the dragons had been like were their Draconian descendants. But Draconians were notoriously reclusive, and the only thing she knew about them was that they lived solely in the high mountains.
A call from outside her room pulled her attention. Jennifer let her thoughts rest as she got up from her chair.
I should’ve tried to meet Irwys before I went dungeon delving. Lesson learned. I guess it’s time to do things all over again.
Jennifer walked through the door, making her way down the stairs and into the dining room. Her brother sat at the table, chirping excitedly about the food prepared by her mom for the celebration.
"Good evening, Jenn," her father said from across the table without looking up from his book. She'd missed it all this time, but he wore some of his better clothes, and had one of his favourite author’s books in his hand. Clearly in a good mood, even if he didn’t otherwise show it.
“Come on, don’t stand there all by yourself. Today’s your day Jenn!” her mother exclaimed happily as she brought the food to the table on a tray. Jennifer evaluated the various food items present. A beefy meat pie sat at the centre, filled with eggplants. Keith hated those but Jennifer enjoyed them, so today her preferences won over his.
“Hey hey Jenn, you can do magic now right? You said you’d learn real magic when you went to the big school. Can you show me?” Keith asked, curiously as he swung his dangling legs under the chair.
Jennifer hummed to herself as she looked at Keith. “I wonder. Will I?” she said with a slight smirk.
“That’s so unfair! Show me pleeease? I won’t steal your magic stones if you do,” her brother pleaded.
“Wait, you're the one who stole those?” Jennifer exclaimed as she looked at Keith, the boy’s eyes wide in surprise as he mumbled something.
“Don’t steal your sister’s stuff Keith. Say sorry,” her mother instructed as she finally set the last of the food down.
“It’s fine,” Jennifer said as she motioned for her mother to take a seat. “Alright Keith, I’ll show you some magic. Mom and dad, both of you as well,” Jennifer said, pausing for a moment as she took a deep breath.
Concentrating on her core, she let the glass mana flood her circuits, magic churned as she formed a swirling wind around her. A small blue mote of light shone in her core, and she drew on it, letting the small tinge of crystal affinity mana blend her glass.
Jennifer extended her hand, a bright red glass shard forming above her hand, around it swirled tiny shining crystals of glass, accompanied by sharp gusts of wind carrying shards of hardened glass, their edges shining in the light.
She let the flashy display end as the glass shards faded into motes of mana. She opened her eyes to see her family staring at her in surprise.
“Jenn—” her mother said, but she was interrupted by Keith shouting over her.
“Whoaaaaa! That was so awesome! Jenn, can you do it again? Where did you learn to do that? There were so many things floating around and it looked really pretty!” Keith exclaimed. Jenn smiled at her brother jumping around bubbling with excitement.
She turned towards her parents, “I’ve awakened to glass affinity. Pretty recently as well. I didn’t share because I was as surprised as you guys probably are. But I decided now might be a good time to. I plan to apply for an apprentice mage position tomorrow. I’ve had a look into it, and it would allow me to join early. Plus, the job also gives quite a few benefits.”
Her parents sat there staring at her, before they looked towards each other. “Jennifer, that is great dear! But, all of a sudden? It just feels so sudden to be told you've awakened. Sera forbid me, an affinity of all things? Isn’t that quite rare even among mages?” her mother asked, her expression jumping between excited and concerned.
“I’ve been practicing mom. I know it’s a bit sudden, but trust me. I can do this, I know I can. And I just wanted to tell you about it,” Jennifer said. Her mother was about to reply when her dad held her hand.
“You know how stubborn she is. Just like another woman I know. I doubt you’ll change her mind now,” her father said to her mom, before turning towards her. “Know that we’re proud of you Jenn. You’ve always worked so hard, and I know you’ll do great.”
Jennifer looked down, a sudden feeling of shyness overcoming her. “Thanks dad.”
“I’ll leave the magic stuff to you two. I don’t understand it anyways. But don’t sit around, I’ve made quite a feast for you. And an affinity is just another cause to celebrate Jenn! I’m proud of you dear,” her mom said, as she motioned for her to eat.
Jennifer smiled, as she began to eat the delicious food prepared for her. For the first time, she actually had the peace of mind to enjoy the meal.
“No, we can’t lend you a tier 5 spell in exchange. An apprentice mage won’t be handed a Tier-4 spell, much less a Tier-5. If you want want one, you’ll need permission from one of the Mages, and return with a written note explicitly allowing you to get the recommend spell,” the librarian said, with a slight glare attached to the end of sentence as she shuffled the tomes together before setting them down below the counter.
Jennifer almost clicked her tongue, but held back as she dipped her head. “Thanks for the help,” she said, before picking up her new spell crystals and the scant few gold coins she’d tried to offer the librarian to “buy” the spell from her. She turned around and headed further into the library, huffing slightly.
That was a waste of time. It’s only a Enhanced Divination spell, it’s not like I’m asking for a necromancy or blood magic tome or anything.
She walked to the table she'd kept her books on, setting the spell crystals onto the table before she inspected them one by one. Jennifer had realised that she could just pick as many spells as she wanted from the library, and then switch them out for new ones every time she restarted and visited the academy.
The only thing holding me back is how quickly and how many of these I can actually learn. Not all of them are going to be glass affinity, and my class isn't going to help with any non-enchanting spells.
She picked up the first spell crystal, the yellow gem shining dimly in her hand. Sending a pulse of mana to the spell, she let the matrix form in her mind as she flipped the page of the tome open to where the spell description was written.
Spell Name: Mind link
Type: Mind Magic
Form a telepathic link, one of the most basic structures in mind magic, to allow direct non physical communication.
Jennifer fiddled with the spell crystal in her finger as she tried to break down the mind magic spell. It was trickier, and different from her usual spell set. The flow of mana was completely changed and even the way the mana was conjured was subtly altered from her other spells.
Setting the crystal down, she looked through the next two.
Spell Name: Lesser Scrying
Type: Divination Magic
Scry an object, entity or person using the basic principles of divination magic.
Spell Name: Refresh Memory
Type: Mind Magic
A simple mind magic spell to help memorise subjects and recall them better at later dates. Caution is advised with any magic affecting the mind directly.
Jennifer pocketed the crystals in her pouch. She would have time to learn the spell matrices in this restart, as she tried to find Xar and Irwys. The first of the two being the trickier one with his shifting location and unpredictable paths. He was outside the dungeon, that she was sure of. Yet her magic failed to find just where he'd gone.
The door to the library opened and a blonde boy walked into the library. Jennifer winced as she saw Livian looking around the library. Moving slowly she shifted to be out of his sight as she watched him pace back and forth, hesitating over saying something to the librarian, before he changed his mind and walked back out.
Jennifer felt a strange sense of guilt filling her, when she remembered the way he'd been killed by the Hydra. All because she wanted to explore the ruins and see what made her mark react.
It’s fine. He’s alive now. That never happened.
But her self-assurance did nothing to lessen the guilt. Jennifer had arrived at the academy early this reset, giving an individual test instead of the class battle like last time. It had also allowed her to avoid Livian completely, and therefore not having to deal with his request to go dungeon delving. She would’ve refused this time around anyways.
I can sell that affinity core and use the money to look into Irwy’s past a bit more. Him and the prince. I could also afford more expensive divination spells to look for Xar.
Jennifer moved back to her desk as she continued her little dive into the history of dragons. Her exploration at the library had ended with her finding a whole section dedicated to draconian magic, and dragons themselves.
‘The Death of Dragons’ the only find in her search read on its cover. The book was made of thick leather, with scales covering it. Wyvern scales. She could tell by the telltale cuts at their edges, having worked with them in her master's shop. Jennifer had found the book in a particularly well hidden corner of the library, sitting all by itself in a shelf filled with other much more magically active books.
Curiously she opened the tome, the beginning was a treatise on the credentials of the writer. Finding the index, she flipped through the pages till she arrived at the section mentioning the dragons themselves.
‘The death of dragons. To highlight how one of the mightiest creatures in existence fell, we will have to first highlight how they rose to prominence in the first place.’
Jennifer looked at the book curiously. None of the books she'd read before had ever mentioned how the dragons died. It was just taken as a fact that something killed all of them. Jennifer hummed to herself, finding it strange that no one had ever thought to try and look into such a big event.
She turned the page, frowning as she came across a blank page. She continued, but all she saw was blank pages. She continued to flip, realising that the entire book was empty. Jennifer looked around the library, confused.
Is someone playing some kind of trick on me?
She continued to inspect the book, using mana to see if it was something like invisible ink, yet, there truly was nothing written on the pages.
“Strange,” Jennifer muttered as she was about to close the book when a small emblem in the bottom corner of the last page caught her eye. Inspecting it more closely, she discovered a small man, holding an orb, standing against a dragon. Curious she touched the emblem, gently pouring her mana through it.
A few moments passed as nothing happened. Jennifer chuckled to herself, feeling silly for letting herself assume it was anything but a prank on the students curious enough to look into the subject.
But then a pulse traveled through her mark as it began to shine. Bright light shone from the book as it flipped open, the pages turning wildly. Magic swirled around Jennifer, forming a storm that tore books from their shelves. She tried to move away from the book, but the torrent of mana sucked her in, swallowing her whole as the world faded around her. Pure white covered her eyes as she began to sink into the endless pages.
I just love to jinx myself don’t I?