“Almost every year that The Ravener has risen, a student studying at Generasi has sought to investigate the phenomenon to find an answer to your kingdom’s plight.” Professor Jules said gravely. “Remains of its monsters have been transported here before. As have remains of its…” she paused. “They are called dungeon cores, are they not?”
“Yes,” Carey London said.
Alex leaned forward further. So they had been studied here.
“Even some remains of the Ravener itself have been studied, once your champions achieved victory…I shall not tell you the specific results until you have advanced a little more in your studies, but I can say that no solution to ending The Ravener’s threat permanently has ever been found through study here at Generasi, as valiant as the attempts have been.”
“Could you tell us what they found out about it?” Ms. London asked.
She paused. “While avoiding specifics, I can tell you that uses have been found for some of the remains, though I am sure that not having a more complete answer must be frustrating for you. But there is a reason we do not reveal the magical properties or essences of dangerous monsters or their parts before a student is skilled enough to defend themselves against such creatures. Knowledge affords temptation.
She turned to the board and drew an image of a tooth. “If one thought that the key to eternal youth lay in the bellies of great white sharks, for example—and research had confirmed this—how many students do you think would purchase a boat or cast an ‘Orb of Air’ spell over themselves, dive into the sea and try to wrest such a thing from a shark’s belly? Oh, and I assure you, what I just said about great white sharks is a complete lie. Don’t try it. But, in Generasi’s early days, we misguidedly had monster lore freely available to all students so that they might gain some familiarity with it.”
She paused. “...what the instructors at the time found, was that they suddenly had an entire new generation of eager and unprepared ‘monster hunters’ immediately going in search of precious organs from creatures that had too many teeth. As a consequence, we were left with many, many dead young wizards. A dangerous stretch of wilderness may be left well alone, until you tell someone that gold can be found in the bottom of its rivers.”
She smiled gently. “Don’t worry, Ms. London, and to all other Thameish students: as your skills advance, you will be granted more freedom. Eventually, you may attempt such projects yourself, if your kingdom and church provide you materials from your Ravener and its monsters. Just because something has been analyzed before, does not mean it’s not worth analysis from a new perspective and new eyes. Perhaps, one of you will be the one to end your kingdom’s threat forever. The road of discovery has many treasures to find. …but I think it is safe enough to tell you one revelation, however, as this knowledge does not lend itself to dangerous action. Quite the opposite, actually.”
She paused. “If I recall the records correctly, all attempts to remove a so-called ‘living’ dungeon core from your homeland have failed. As soon as they reached a certain distance from the shores of your island nation, they crumbled into dust.”
Ms. London leaned forward. “Eh? Why is that?”
“I’m afraid no answer has been found. Perhaps getting too far from this Ravener is no good for them. Perhaps you shall find the answer yourself during your academic career.”
Alex looked at Ms. London, watching the young woman slouch in disappointment. It was too bad. She was obviously interested in researching The Ravener and probably would have been interested in analyzing the dungeon core with him, or at least finding any research that had already been done in the lower levels of the library.
Unfortunately, that would bring up all sorts of awkward questions, such as: ‘where did you get the remains of a dungeon core from’? And judging from the prominent symbol of Uldar hanging from her neck, he doubted she would be too understanding of him running away from his ‘holy duties’, if she found out who he actually was.
Even if he told her that humans could control dungeon cores and that this threw a lot of their history into question, that might only make things worse. If he hadn’t received The Mark of the Fool and had just simply come to study at the university and some random student had come up to him saying, ‘listen, I controlled a dungeon core, want to do illicit research with me?’ then he would have immediately put a good safe distance between himself and them.
Besides, who knew who could be trusted, and with what?
Best to quietly keep an eye on her.
“Well, if those are all the ques-Ah, Mr. Roth.”
Alex had raised his hand. One trick he’d learned for getting professors to like him was the art of ‘asking questions’. There was a technique to it, though. Honest, earnest questions about the subject often drew the best responses. A mistake some gifted students tended to make was to ask questions that were designed to show how smart they were to impress the class and teacher.
In the end, that only served to annoy classmates and the professor who would always know more than the student, no matter how smart they thought they were. Then there were the questions that just showed that the student hadn’t been paying attention, which tended to also aggravate instructors.
The best questions were ones from true curiosity, that showed an interest in the subject without looking like he was just trying to get into the professor’s good books.
Luckily, he had just a question. Two of them, actually.
“I’ve got two questions, Professor Jules.”
“Ah, I’ll answer them both,” she said neutrally. “Then we will need to move on.”
“Thanks, professor, I heard from someone that feeding body enhancement potions to growing creatures can make them bigger and stronger, how does that work?”
“Ah, yes, an excellent question,” the professor said.
Kybas gave Alex a quick glance, and Alex gave him a friendly nod in return.
“Body enhancement potions work by pouring mana directly into the body, in order to temporarily energize its processes.”
She turned to the obsidian stone, drawing a diagram of a person ingesting a potion.
“This can result in increased strength, speed or vitality, or all of the above if higher grade versions of the potions are used. However, even the focused versions do enhance the entire body: one simply uses particular ingredients and mana manipulation to focus that enhancement on a single physical aspect, such as increasing strength, for example. The same principle goes for potions of enhanced sight or senses, those that increase virility or fertility—ever popular with wealthy couples or bachelors—”
Several people in the class chuckled, including Alex.
“—or those that increase the efficacy of specific actions, such as potions of jumping. In reality, the mana of these potions enhances allbodily processes to a certain degree. It is simply that the effect has been tailored to focus mostly on increasing the aspect of the body that potion is meant for. In young creatures, one of the most life-defining bodily processes they undergo is that of growth into adulthood. As such, body enhancement potions—especially high grade ones that enhance all bodily processes at once—will enhance growth while they are in a young creature’s system. The effects of a few are not noticeable, but repeated doses—a veryexpensive proposition—can boost an animal or plant to unprecedented levels of size, strength, speed and vitality. The Tauzhian Empire used to make a practice of raising a caste of children into a sort of ‘enhanced warrior’ through a careful regime of training, diet and a constant supply of relatively low-grade body enhancement potions.”
She drew the image of a thin leafed plant on the obsidian slab. “When those cheaper ingredients for that recipe or potion went extinct, the practice went with it. The ethics of such a practice are a topic for a different course, but such a thing is possible, even though with most recipes it is prohibitively expensive. There are also potions that can permanently alter and enhance the body after simply drinking one, but those require ingredients both incredibly rare and highly dangerous: absolutely fatally toxic if mishandled. Now, what is your second question?”
“Um, what’s ‘golem-craft’?” he asked. “And what does that have to do with potions?”
“Ah, you do like getting ahead of yourself, don’t you, Mr. Roth?” She smiled. “A golem is an alchemical construct: an automaton crafted through high level mana manipulation, specific ingredients and a lot of mana. The result is something like an elemental made from clay, wood, bone, flesh, stone, steel or even rarer substances depending on one’s budget, mana reserves and level of skill. They are then controlled by verbal command or—if one is very skilled in the art—direct mana manipulation. A golem can be a powerful servant or soldier to its master, and though the construction process is rigorous, its foundations lie in alchemy. If you have an interest in golem-craft then I would suggest you pay careful attention in class, Mr. Roth, and develop the skills necessary to produce such marvels.”
Alex’s imagination went wild at the possibilities.
He thought back to the large, clay humanoid from the city, and how it had carried a burden that must have weighed at least a thousand pounds. What would such a thing be able to do in a combat situation?
His mind flashed back to the Cave of the Traveller.
Back then, he had told Theresa to throw the fire-gem at the queen, basically telling another person to engage in an act of combat. The Mark had not bothered him about that. Would it be so neutral with a golem? If so, thatcould be a loophole to exploit, as long as he had the supplies to build such a construct.
“Alright, we will now proceed with the lecture and you may ask any more questions as we go along. First of all, we will cover a general overview of potion making, followed by introducing you to the Table of Prime Essences—the main reference for categorizing all ingredients that may be provided to you or found in the field. After, we will overview the main apparati of potion craft. So, first of all, let us talk about how potions are categorized. Much like spells, they use a tier system starting from first to ninth. Spell-craft categorizes spells into tiers based on the level of complexity of their spell array, how much space the magic circuit takes up within one’s mana pool, the power of the resulting spell, and the amount of mana the spell requires. Potion craft is similarly categorized based on the amount of mana required to craft a potion, and the power the resulting effect has compared to similar spells. Dexter said-”
As Professor Jules moved on with the lesson, Alex drew a little doodle on one of the top corners of the page: a caricature of himself standing beside a giant figure like the one drawn by the professor.
The lesson went on from there, and much of it—to Alex’s delight—was review, thanks to his diligent reading of Dexter’s textbook. He still took careful notes on the lecture, though, since the instructor added anecdotes from her own abundant knowledge. His handwriting had greatly improved in neatness, size, and speed in the last month.
As the lecture went on, he quickly filled an entire page with organized notes, including sub-sections indicating new material that differed or expanded on the textbook’s. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Derek watching what he was doing closely, but also looking around at other students in the row in front of him or close by.
Good. It seemed like he was expanding his net, meaning that he wasn’t the cheater’s only mark.
The most fun part of the lecture, though, came during the demonstration. Professor Jules indicated the flasks in front of her.
“What you see here only looks like coloured water, but they are actually suspensions of certain ingredients that have been processed into almost complete potions,” she said. “I will now demonstrate the application of mana manipulation to finish the final catalyzing of the mixture into a complete potion.”
She drew a long two-pronged fork from a drawer at the front of the class. “This is a mana conductor, and it is the key to potion-craft. It is the equivalent to a mana pill furnace, a cauldron of witchcraft, or a sangoma healing bowl, but miniaturized, and not as powerful as any of those tools. It is useful for preparing potions up to the third tier.”
She placed the mana conductor into one of the flasks and gave the fluid a stir. The conductor lit up with mana, which poured through the tines and into the potion, causing the liquid to shine with an inner glow.
“And this completes the potion,” Professor Jules said, taking it up and drinking it in one gulp. The class gasped as her skin, hair and even her eyes turned a bright shade of blue. “A potion of pigment.” She smiled, revealing bright blue teeth. “As are the rest.”
She went down the line, placing the mana conductor into each flask—one after the next—and finishing the potions. There would be a flash of light, and the potions would glow before returning to their original colour and consistency.
Each time she drank a completed potion, she would turn a different colour: orange, green, grey, purple and red. Then, the final potion washed away the magical effect, returning her to her normal skin tone. She smoothed her white hair.
“Notice how I held the mana fork for a differing amount of time in each? Even similar potions require different amounts of mana and specific techniques in terms of mana manipulation.” She placed the mana conductor down. “Other important apparati-”
She brought up a brass tube with a sharp point. “Include the mana vacuum and the waste mana container.” She brought up a large glass and metal jar, covered in arcane symbols. “The mana vacuum is always placed as a safety measure in potions that you are crafting. If the reaction goes wild, you activate it and it will drain all mana from the reaction and vent it into the mana waste container. The latter will hold the excess mana from the reaction temporarily, and so it can be used for further reactions by attaching a portable mana conductor to it. And—this question is asked every year—no, the mana vacuum cannot drain your mana if you cut yourself on it.”
She tapped the sharp end lightly with her finger. “To face such a danger, you would need to stab yourself in the core of your body, and activate the vacuum for it to even be a threat. And even then, your mana is so safely tucked into you, that such a device wouldn’t work at all unless you recently had a conduit opened to transfer mana directly in or out of your body. So, unless you were attacked by a mana vampire in the previous hour, donated to one, or somehow convinced one to donate its mana to you, then you would be safe. In such an event, though, I think you would have greater problems.”
She was looking at the class intently. “Now, as we’re nearing the end, your assignment is to read chapters one and two of Dexter’s, and fill out the blank ‘Table of Prime Essences’ that I will hand out at the end of class. You will be expected to memorize this table for the first quiz, so study it thoroughly. Next week, I will ask you to attend class in The Cells. We will be having our introduction to potion lab safety then.”
Class ended shortly after, with Alex jumping up from his chair to line up with other students to ask Professor Jules a torrent of questions. They were legitimate, but he kept his eye on the seats to make sure that Derek had long gone on without him.
Slipping out of class, he glanced around, making sure that Isolde’s former partner wasn’t hanging around, then stepped out the door, quite pleased with himself.
“Excuse me!” a voice cried.
He slowly turned to see Carey London, the other Thameish student, hurrying up to him. The symbol of Uldar bounced on the long chain hanging from her neck.