“Can I help you, young man?” A woman, whose complexion seemed to shift from orange to brown, looked at him from behind another desk set into the wall. Her ears were long and pointy like the witches in Alric’s fairy tales. But unlike Alric’s witches, hers were covered in feathers.
“Um, yes, it’s my first day, and I’m looking to use the library.”
“I see, well, welcome to Generasi. Might I see your student’s plate?”
With pride, Alex dug out the round wooden card that Hobb had given him after his registration was completed. It had a blue stamp on it, followed by the number ‘1’ under his name.
“Hmmmm, first year, and capable of first-tier magic. That will give you access to the first three floors of the library.”
The woman spoke an incantation and traced a spell array over the card. A green, glowing symbol appeared beside the ‘1’.
“Please do not approach anything beneath floor three, as the wards will stop you from entering.”
Alex’s cheer dimmed. “I can’t go to the other floors?”
“It’s for your own safety, you understand,” she said pointedly. “In times past, the University would have its knowledge freely available to all students, but some decided to sprint before they could crawl and took out spell-guides to magics far too advanced for their experience. You do not want to see what happens when a neophyte dabbles in demonology or advanced explosion magic.”
Alex remembered the blue fireball that had burst from The Cells—whatever they were—earlier.
‘Wizardry is dangerous,’ Lucia’s words echoed in his head.
“Right, that makes sense,” he said.
“What languages can you read?”
“Just the Common tongue,” he said, somewhat embarrassed. ‘For now,’ he mentally added.
“Very well, many of the books are not written in that tongue, but you can make a translation request from the service desk on the first floor. The books are organized by a filing system that you can read about from the master tome on each floor. Have you chosen courses yet?”
Alex winced. Was he supposed to do that? Hobb hadn’t mentioned anything about that. “N-no. Hobb said I could use the guides here.”
“Not a problem, then. Normally, we send out a letter with a list of courses for students to select from before arrival. However, letters become lost, ships sink, caravans get diverted. To the farther realms, even acceptance letters can and have arrived late, leaving no time for course selection before the journey to Generasi must begin. It’s why we hold a second round of selections on campus beginning approximately three weeks before classes begin.”
She smiled warmly. “No need to worry, the course guides are set on the first floor on your right. When you’ve chosen your courses, you simply submit the form to the registrar’s office.”
“Um, do you have any books on The Ravener? Ones I can access?”
She blinked, her eyes flicking as though they were quickly turning pages he couldn’t see. “Third floor, fourth shelf on your left on the upper balcony. Third book from the rightmost end. There are others, but they are within the deeper levels.”
Alex groaned internally. He wouldn’t be able to do any in depth research on the dungeon core until he became more advanced in his studies. He really hoped the first book would be helpful.
“Thanks, you’ve been very helpful,” he said and stepped toward the door.
The green writing around the steps brightened as he approached, flashing in time with the symbol on his card.
There was a click as the doors silently parted in front of him.
“Best of luck with your studies,” the librarian said.
The doors silently shut behind him.
Each floor of the library had two levels and the book-cases rose to the top of each. About ten feet tall. The second floor had a balcony circling the main room, while the middle of the chamber was filled with long tables and desks that were largely empty, except for a couple of robed figures who glanced up before returning to their studies. Glowing forceballs—in green—illuminated the library, and Alex could see a sign close by that had a drawing of a lit candle with a giant ‘X’ through it.
He shook his head, wondering if anyone in their right mind would actually bring open flame near so many precious, andflammable books. Especially when there were spells that provided plenty of light.
He glanced to one of the closest shelves, grabbed a course guide then made for the stairs. As it turned out, the second and third floors didn’t lead up, but down into the earth. He was uncomfortably reminded of the dark descent into the hive.
Finding where he was going was easy enough, luckily—the librarian obviously had an unnaturally good memory—and as he mounted the stairs toward the bookcase, he took a deep breath. Here it was. The moment he would begin his research on The Ravener.
His eyes skimmed the titles, looking for the one she had indicated.
His heartbeat quickened.
Soon he’d have a book in his hands that could give him some answers. A book he’d been waiting to search since leaving Thameland.
Then his eyes stopped. So did his heart.
“It…it can’t be.” He stumbled back. Disbelief raced through him. His mind couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was impossible.
There—in the middle of two books that were written in languages he couldn’t understand—was the name of a single title and its author printed on the spine of a volume:
A History of Our Heroes and their Opposition of The Ravener, by Finnius Galloway.
Alex Roth barely resisted screaming and finding himself being thrown out of the library on his first day.
Sighing, Alex sat at a table surrounded by books and paper.
On one side was his course guide, and in front of him were multiple 1st-tier spell-guides, and a few books on general magical lore and Thameland’s history. Some of the books were somewhat helpful: going into more details on The Traveller’s life and how she had used her unique abilities to aid the other Heroes of her time.
There was talk of how her portals had come from another power outside of The Mark of the Saint, and how she had directed that power against The Ravener and its spawn.
He’d spoken to the librarian, and apparently, a book called The Bestiary of the Ravener and its Foul Spawn was available in the first floor area dedicated to students who could cast second tier spells, along with most books on monsters’ physiology and lore, and the beginnings of demonology.
That sounded like it would be a good start.
But for that, he would need to advance his spellcasting and prove that he was able to handle the knowledge on the next floors. That brought him to the courses he’d need to take, which is what he’d been looking over.
First thing he needed was to not be discovered; he’d need to find out why people found it so strange for priests to be near the campus.
He also needed to make sure that—oddly enough—he stood out.
The Fool was known to be a failure at spellcasting, which meant that if he excelled in magic, he would actually draw less suspicion than if he failed or was average.
Second and relatedly, was that he would need to advance quickly enough to start rising in the spell-tiers. Not only would that enhance his power to defend himself-
A deep cough sounded near him.
Alex looked up at one of the only other occupants on this floor of the library. He was a massive figure—a beastfolk that looked like a bipedal goat—with iron grey fur and a beard that hung down and was decorated with a number of golden clasps. His eyes were the strange eyes of a goat, and they leisurely scanned a book in front of him, until they looked up to Alex.
The goatman winced. “Apologies.”
“No problem,” Alex waved to him and went back to sketching out his plan.
Where was he? Yes, defending himself. Advancing in spell-tiers would make him better able to investigate The Ravener, help him succeed at Generasi, and let him defend himself from mana vampires, horrible silence bugs, and anything else the world throws at him.
The issue was The Mark.
It wasn’t going to make that easy.
He’d started his course selection with that idea in the front of his mind.
MAGT-1020: Magic Lore I was his compulsory. He’d already studied a fair amount of it before coming to Generasi, and The Mark hadn’t interfered with him recalling facts about how spellcraft worked. If he could figure things out, it might even help him excel at the course.
That left four others.
A huge number of courses were listed in the course guide, ranging from magical lore, to different traditions of magic from all over the world, to other traditions such as minor courses on history, arts, and philosophy.
Briefly, he considered trying LIFE-1075: Lifeforce Enforcement I. Considering that he would be physically training anyway, empowering his life-force might be useful. Then again, that course could be a problem. Hobb had said it was dangerous, that one needed an affinity for it, and that it was a divinity. The last thing he needed was for The Mark to interfere while he was trying to learn some dangerous new subject that was a divinity, and that he had zero experience in.
He’d leave that to Theresa.
That left a bunch of others that he’d skimmed:
BLOO-1000: An Introduction to Blood Magic. Achieve new avenues of spellcraft such as healing, the creation of homunculi and sympathetic magic with this ancient discipline.
ELEC-1400: Lightning Magic I. Learn the elemental art of lightning to power aparati, stun foes and blast enemies with a thunderbolt. Starts with a study of electricity, air elementals and basic shock spells.
SUMM-1020: Summoning I. Call upon spirits of the ether to enact your will in the world. Begins with the binding of least elementals.
Most of those looked interesting, and he put them in the ‘later’ pile. For now, he needed to focus on things that he had experience with, or that he was sure The Mark wouldn’t affect.
Going over the list again, something interesting caught his eye.
POTI-1000: The Alchemy of Potions I. Learn to brew draughts from the ancient recipes of the masters. Requires direct mana manipulation.
That really looked promising. If potion-craft was mostly mana manipulation and combining ingredients, then there might not be much in the way of actual spellcraft. Mana manipulation was hard, but using the forceball had trained him in it to some extent. Besides, he’d been a baker’s assistant for years: he could learn recipes in his sleep.
He thought about the dungeon core.
The Mark had helped him use mana manipulation against the core: it would probably help him with this subject. And learning mana manipulation through potions might even help him fight a core again, if it came to that.
A thought occurred to him and he flipped through the guide.
He smiled when he found what he was looking for.
MANA-1900: The Beginnings of Mana Manipulation. Learn this challenging, ancient art complimentary to spellcraft. Learn valuable mana regeneration techniques and how to operate certain spells and ancient magic items.
He checked off another box.
His second to last course choice was easy:
FORC-1550: Spells of Force I. This is a speciality course in the arts of force magic. From spells such as the humble forceball or magic missile, to shields, force bubbles and walls of force. Spells from this family are versatile and powerful.
This main course in spellcraft would allow him to specialize in magic similar to the spell he was most familiar with. A good way to counter interference by The Mark.
That left one more.
Flipping back to the beginning, he started to turn the page when he noticed an entry that he’d missed earlier.
COMB-1000: The Art of the Wizard in Combat. There is more to using magic in battle than simply learning battle spells and sending them flying to explode at your enemies. A Proper Wizard knows how to conduct themselves in battle and use every resource available. Combat spells. Vast knowledge. Physicality. Allies. These are all tools, and battle will make students grow like no other. WARNING: COMB-1000 is a danger-oriented course that does not pull its punches. Live combat against creatures of the Barrens of Kravernus is the preferred teaching method. Beware.
Alex stared at the course for a long time.
A few days ago, he wouldn’t have even given it a second look. Now?
‘Every resource available’.
Something about that spoke to him on a fundamental level. There was a course for ‘battle magic’, but it focused on spells that blew things up or enhanced the physical form. This, though? This sounded like it could teach him the true nature of combat, resources, survival and adaptation.
This could teach him how to survive mana vampires and silence spiders and whatever else was waiting for him.
He paused over it for a long time.
Another deep cough, from close by.
Alex startled. The goat-fellow had risen from his table and was quietly making his way to the door, his cloven hooves emerging from beneath his robes and making a dull noise on the floorboards. Still, they were oddly quiet.
Alex hadn’t even heard him approach.
“Apologies,” the man said again as he stepped by.
His eyes fell on the course guide. He stopped.
Slowly, he turned and Alex was struck by just how big he was. Maybe a good foot taller than he was. Maybe more.
“Hmmm, forgive me for being nosey, but are you considering COMB-1000?” he asked. His beard clasps clinked.
“I, uh, I’m thinking about it,” Alex said, wondering if he was a professor.
“Good. It’s good to see even the consideration of it.” The man’s goat-like eyes twinkled. “If I might advise you, I would suggest taking the course, though I am a little biased. After all-”
He leaned forward slightly, and his bulk seemed to fill the room.
“-I teach it.”