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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

Last day of the month! Five more writathon days. To anyone else taking the challenge, we're almost there! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the chapter.


Training Day 3

Three Sets of Push-Ups: BEGAN. 10,9,8. DONE. TOTAL=27

Spell-Testing: BEGAN.

Alex closed the book and slipped out of the room again, stretching after his morning exercises. His footsteps were very quiet now, at least to him. He was nowhere near Theresa’s natural silence, but he’d reached the level of someone who had been putting effort into the skill for awhile.

The insula was still quiet this early in the morning, though he heard some students speaking incantations in low voices as he left the lav and headed down the hallway past their apartments.

As he stepped into the courtyard, he paused, stepping back inside to glance into the kitchen. It was fully equipped with a large stove and oven, a deep sink, countertops and a fireplace. He saw logs nearby, but he also saw that the stove, oven, and fireplace were etched with spell-arrays that were similar to what was written in the spell-guide for ‘Heat’.

Fire-Magic.

Clever. Wood for students who hadn’t gained experience with the spell-arrays of fire-magic, and arrays for those who had. He hoped that in time he’d be able to use the spell-arrays himself. For now, it would be good to get some ingredients and do some cooking or baking down here. The food at Generasi was incredible, but he was starting to miss some of Alric’s home cooking.

Walking through the courtyard, he spied the massive eagle asleep with its head tucked beneath a wing on its master’s balcony. No sign of its master, though. Leaving the insula, he reached the quiet spot he’d been using to practice in for the last couple of days—a group of trees about five minutes’ walk from most of the school’s buildings.

He set himself up and opened his notebook, wincing at what was inside.

Ten pages of failures and counting.

All of them with detailed notes on what The Fool had shown him, examining the precise details of his failures. Put nicely, it was an entire page that listed all the ways he could improve his spellcraft. Put another way, it was a detailed record of every stupid or embarrassing action he’d done, including some where he’d nearly gotten injured, or some that could have ended his career as a mage before it had really even begun.

The alarming thing was that there seemed to be no end to them.

At first, he’d thought there might have been a finite amount of failures to record: after all, he hadn’t been practicing magic for an infinite amount of time, and so there had to be a limit to the failures it would throw at him.

He’d been right, but only to a certain extent.

Even on his successful castings of the forceball, it wasn’t as though he cast the spell perfectly each time. It was like any other task: one could never repeat the same movements perfectly every time they made them, even with something as common as walking. Little tiny inefficiencies, wasted motion, slip-ups when one wasn’t fully paying attention, or mistakes caused by outside circumstances were constant in every task in life.

Most didn’t notice these tiny little deviations—they were just part of life—but The Mark of the Fool did, and it would amplify them and then scream them into his mind to ruin anything it didn’t want him to do.

Just by living life, he would generate an endless line of tiny ‘failures’ for it to grind into his face.

He shuddered. This Mark could definitely give someone a complex.

Looking back to the book, he tapped his pen against the pages. He’d accounted for most of his largest mistakes at least. Getting those down was worth it, then would come the time to experiment.

#

Training Day 5

Three Sets of Push-Ups: BEGAN. 12,10,8. DONE. TOTAL=30

Forceball Failure Documentation: COMPLETE (enough).

Today: Begin experimentation

He started to slip his books into his rucksack.

Creak.

“Alex?”

“Uldar’s beard!” he jumped, whirling around.

Brutus flew up, his paws scrabbling on the hardwood floor as he looked around with all three heads.

Theresa was standing in the middle of the doorway to the larger bedroom, rubbing her eyes. She had a clear case of bed-head. Her hair hung down, wild and messy from the night’s sleep, and her long nightdress was crooked. Behind her, he could see Selina was still asleep.

“You scared me,” he let out a sigh of relief. “What’re you doing up so early?”

“I think I’ve had enough sleeping in.” She padded up to the pantry and took out a hunk of bread baked the day before and offered him a piece, which he took. Their pantry was starting to get filled with breads, cheeses, butter, fresh vegetables and more.

The top section of the pantry was ringed with a spell array that kept things cold while—in the middle and bottom—food that could stay at room temperature like bags of flour and apples were arranged.

He wanted to treat Theresa and Selina to a pie soon.

“You should stay for a bit longer.” Theresa leaned against the pantry. “Selina misses you at breakfast.”

“It’s just temporary,” he said. “Besides, she’s been missing you at supper.”

Theresa threw a guilty look at her sword, leaning against the wall in its scabbard. “Like you said, it’s temporary.”

“Then we both have the same excuse.” He smiled. “How’s it been, watching the Watchers?”

After they had explored the campus over the first few days, Theresa had taken to watching the evening practices held by the Watchers of Roal.

“Informative.” She made a face. “I didn’t know how little I knew about the sword until I watched them. You should come with me one evening. It’s something else.”

“I might just do that, it actually sounds kind of fun.”

“Good. Just do me one favour...don’t bring a mop.”

Hey!

She grinned at him. “I think I’m going to audit their weapons course, even if I only watch, I’m learning a lot. If I put that together with Lifeforce Enforcement, that’ll get me on a similar path to the one great-grandfather walked.”

Her eyes twinkled and Alex couldn’t help but smile as he watched her, bed- head and all.

“That’s really cool,” he said. “I’m sure he’d be proud. You thinking of taking anything else?”

“Geography of the World’s Realms.”

“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “I thought you more wanted to see the world, and less wanted to hear about it from dusty old books.”

“If I’m going to see the world, then I should know something about it. Why waste time and knowledge? Besides, since I’m just auditing the course. There’s no credit, so I don’t have to worry about studying or writing exams. I just have to listen and read what I want to read about. So, why not?”

Alex chuckled. If only his situation were the same. Judging by the continuous practicing he’d seen summer students doing, the exams he’d have to face wouldn’t be a joke.

“You’ll have to tell me what you learn,” he said. “It’ll be a nice break from grinding magical knowledge into my head. Maybe-”

Creeaaak.

The floorboards made a sound as a sleepy eyed Selina—also with bed-head— padded into the common room. “Mmm, you’re still here, Alex? Are you going to stay for breakfast?”

He sighed, amused at himself. “I guess I am.”


The announcement came the next morning.

“Attention students!” a voice boomed in the insula’s courtyard, startling Alex from sleep. He scrambled to his bedroom window and pulled aside the curtain to see a Watcher of Roal floating just above the insula’s rooftop. A few other students tore open their bedroom curtains, and the young man who owned the eagle stumbled onto his balcony, blinking in surprise with his whole body tensed.

“Please assemble at the stadium in one hour,” the Watcher of Roal barked. “The investigation into the explosion at The Cell’s has been completed, and Chancellor Baelin wishes to make an announcement regarding the findings.”

Alex blinked.

Wait.

Chancellor Baelin?

Lucia’s words returned.

‘The Barrens of Kravernus,’ the gondolier had said. ‘The mighty chancellor’s monster park.’

“Well, shit.” Alex muttered beneath his breath as The Watcher flew off. Across the courtyard, he met the eyes of the eagle-wrangler.

Both of them exchanged shrugs.

###

The stadium was large enough to fit thousands of people, but only a few hundred students filed tiredly into the seats. Some came with their entourages. Some older students arrived with partners and children, while some of the younger ones—who were extremely well-dressed—were followed by attendants and bodyguards. Alex wondered just how many nobles were here from all the countries in the world.

Alex’s entourage—his friend, his sister and a three-headed dog—had dragged themselves onto the stone benches beside him. Selina glared down at the stadium with a grumpy look. “Why are they soooo earlyyyyy?” she complained.

She clutched a little reed-doll she had been constructing for the past day.

Alex noticed that it had a thick torso and a little stick that looked like an oar. She also held a little book of general studies—one of the books she’d be learning from when the junior school started.

Alex was staring down at the field below in rapt attention, looking at the line of administrators sitting by a podium. He noticed the white haired woman and sharp dressed man they’d seen on the day they arrived at Generasi, sitting close to the podium, while a number of Watchers of Roal floated above, grim-faced as usual.

Hobb was there as well, without the inquisitive cheer he’d had when they’d met.

Then the air began to shimmer.

The crowd fell silent.

Like fish emerging from a pond, profes-no, Chancellor Baelin stepped out of thin air, towering over the other administrators. Unlike when Alex had seen him, the wizard was grim in both facial expression and the stiffness of his body.

I will now begin.” He pronounced.

Mana shuddered in the air as his voice reached out across the entire stadium. It seemed as though he were speaking no louder than a regular conversation, but it was amplified, cutting through the surrounding noise as clearly as if he’d been shouting at the top of his lungs.

“Five days ago,” he addressed the students. “An explosion took place in The Cells. The explosion was stronger than a third-tier fireball going off in a confined room. One experimental cell was destroyed, and—were it not for the reinforcements in the building—the damage would have been even more catastrophic than it was. As it is, one student lost an arm and suffered other devastating injuries, and a member of his entourage tragically lost their life in the blast.”

There was a collective gasp from Alex, Theresa, Selina and some of the other younger attendees.

He noticed that others simply looked on as though the news was expected.

“This was tragic, but it was also avoidable.” Iron anger crept into the beastman’s voice. “We have used equipment from the potions department to examine the residue, and have also conducted interviews. And so, we have determined the cause. The explosion was the result of a first year-summer student attempting to create a potion of ‘Wizard’s Daylight’: a potion not recommended for those who have not mastered appropriate mana manipulation techniques suited for third-tier magic. We determined that the recipe was followed correctly, but the student could not manage the build up of power caused by the reaction of sun-spore with the catalyst, which then caused a runaway mana build up and consequently, a potion detonation.”

He leaned onto the podium. “This student should not have had access to the potion manual that contained such a recipe. All students are repeatedly cautioned on the dangers. We have concluded that an upper year student borrowed the recipe book from the library and unwisely shared it with the younger student in return for monetary gain.”

Beard clasps clinked in the wind. “Both students have been expelled and the upper year student will be charged by the Wizard’s Forum for negligence that resulted in bodily harm and destruction of property.”

Alex’s blood ran cold and he exchanged a look with Theresa and Selina.

He thought about the librarian’s warning about how students were not allowed books from the lower levels. It made sense to him then, but he really understood why now. Anything down there would have to be treated with respect.

“I can’t describe how much this disappoints me,” Baelin said. “Magic is not a toy. It is not a pet to take running for fun and it is not a stallion you need to gallop.” He snorted in disgust. “It is not most divinity, where gods hand out power like handing a child a favourite treat. If you have been accepted into Generasi it should mean you have shown a recruiter knowledge, will, intelligence, drive and common sense. Learn from your fellow students’ examples. Our instructors are here to walk you through a dangerous path. Let them guide you. Do not sprint before you can crawl. That is part of the path to being a Proper Wizard.”

He sighed.

“That is all; you may go on about your day. I wish summer students luck in their upcoming examinations.”

With that, the Chancellor turned and walked back into empty space, disappearing into shimmering air once again. Whispers broke out among the students.

“That big explosion came from a potion?” Theresa leaned toward. “Like, ‘drink from a bottle’ potion, like ‘the class you’re about to take’ potion?”

Alex chewed his lip. “Yeeeeeaaah, that’s the one.”

He wondered if there were any summer classes in potions still being held.

If there was, he’d find out where one was and go see firsthand what the subject was about. If potions could explode like that…

He paused, remembering the dungeon core’s remains.

They used some sort of equipment in the potions department to analyze residue, Chancellor Baelin had said. Maybe the same equipment could be used to examine the core’s powder.

It was time to visit the department and see exactly what he’d gotten himself involved in.

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A note from UnstoppableJuggernaut

 

The name of the potions department had will definitely not be: NotSeverus NotSnape


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