“Must you go personally, Master Castro?” A gray robed figure followed behind a short old man. Though the figure was mostly shrouded by the robe’s cowl, locks of light blue hair barely peeked out.
The old man smiled and turned. His face was sagging, but he looked genial and charitable—the very picture of a sweet old man. The robe he wore was gray, but it glowed with enchantments, and a grand image of an owl shone like a diamond on the shoulders.
“Yes, I must. I have to handle a great deal of business elsewhere before heading to Mateth, but I must meet our young Acolyte personally to earn his favor. Genius is uncommon, but most often, it births two things: pride and eccentricity. That small little dissertation, if moved from theory to practice, could well shake the entire magical world.” Castro voice sounded tired but gentle.
“…do you think…” the other paused. “I think I’d like a fellow… never mind.”
“A fellow disciple?” Castro smiled. “Perhaps, Ingo. This trip serves two purposes; to show the boy that his talents are valued by the Order, and to suss out his character. If I must lower my face as Master of the Order of the Gray Owl to help a rising star lift the Order further up… so be it.”
“But he’s part of the royal…” Ingo trailed off.
Castro stepped forward and grabbed Ingo’s shoulder. He had to reach up to do so. The boy stared at the old tower master with innocent brown eyes.
“I know you have much reason to fear the Vasquers. But rest assured, I will not allow anyone to hurt you ever again. Your life has been a cruel one, but I am resolved to make sure that cruelty ends. Be at ease, Ingo.” Castro squeezed his shoulder tightly, and then released his grip.
Ingo rubbed his hands together, smiling. He looked fully grown, but some of his mannerisms still had a childlike innocence. “I am more worried for you, Master Castro.”
Castro laughed and turned away. “You are far too young to be worrying for me. I do not go looking for danger, and even still, few things on this continent can truly endanger me.”
The tower master walked to the edge of the large stone room they were in, opening the door to a balcony. The balcony extended off for a time, and it peculiarly lacked a railing. Ingo hung near the door, and his hood blew off from the intense wind. His light blue hair whipped about wildly.
Undaunted by the fierce winds, Castro walked to the edge of the balcony and fished into his pockets as casually as one would look for their car keys. He pulled free a black whistle studded with rubies and other such precious gemstones. He blew it, and a piercing shrill chirp echoed from the top of the tower.
Castro looked towards some distant mountains, waiting. Soon enough, a black dot appeared in the distance, gradually growing closer. As it grew closer, it slowly came into a view; a gray wyvern sped towards the tower ferociously.
The tower master walked off the balcony. Ingo clenched the doorframe tighter, but his eyes widened in surprise when the old man simply floated in the air. Castro started to walk downwards as though there was a set of stairs in the air. Ingo knew it was simply one of his master’s myriad spells.
The wyvern passed beneath Castro, and then the two ascended into the sky. Ingo watched him go in wonder. Then, he quietly turned and shut the door to the balcony, standing alone in the grand chambers of the Master of the Order of the Gray Owl.
Argrave sat up quickly, drenched in sweat from a nightmare involving fire. He took a few seconds to gather his bearings. He was confused by his surroundings for a moment, but then he came to remember he was in the Duke’s residence, on a guest bedroom with a seaside balcony. He waited for his beating heart to calm down, and then he stood. He felt much better than he had earlier today. Perhaps he had sweated out the sickness.
Galamon was absent, refilling his flasks. Argrave had come to learn the snow elf vampire kept many flasks of blood on his person, usually enough for a whole week.
The Duke Enrico had said he would speak to Argrave in the morning. Even if Nikoletta had some faith in Argrave’s ability, he himself assumed the Duke would not especially trust the strategy advice of some young royal bastard. The Duke had seen war before; Argrave was likely still a child in his eyes.
Argrave changed from his nightclothes to something more suited for formal occasions. It came from his luggage that he’d left with Nikoletta when Reinhardt had abducted him. He took a look in the mirror in the room. Tailored clothes hid his tall, skinny frame better, and Argrave personally enjoyed dressing well. Fine clothes, fine jewelry—they were fun to own and wear.
He spotted the bronze hand-mirror on his nightstand, and what little distraction he had found quickly drained away. As always, the thing served as a stark reminder of his duty; his role as the one to struggle against Gerechtigkeit. He walked and picked it up, tossing it in the air and catching it by the handle. Within, he read his status once again.
Traits: [Tall], [Sickly], [Weak], [Intelligent], [Magic Affinity (High)], [Insomniac], [Blessing of Supersession (MAX)]
Skills: [Elemental Magic (D)], [Blood Magic (D)], [Healing Magic (D)], [Illusion Magic (D)], [Warding Magic(D)], [Druidic Magic (F)], [Inscription (E)], [Imbuing (E)],
It was somewhat validating to see the results of his constant study. Warding magic was already at D, and although Argrave had learned only a few spells, druidic magic was heading upwards. He thought the ‘traits’ section had remained the same, but he spotted a new entry…
“Hah.” Argrave couldn’t help but laugh. “Insomniac, huh… to think I used to be proud of always getting my eight hours.”
Now that he thought of it, since he had become Argrave, he had never once fallen asleep easily and woke up undisturbed. Even before the battle at the scout’s camp, he was troubled by sleeplessness and nightmares. He would dream that everything was normal—perhaps he was back in the lecture room at college, or driving, or enjoying a quiet family dinner. Then, it would all vanish. He would trip, or blink, and he was back in Berendar, with fell monsters and wars. A place familiar, yet wholly unfamiliar.
‘Saving the world’ was fun to read about, to hear about… but to have that burden hoisted on you?
“Forget it. I don’t have the right to complain.” Argrave tossed the hand mirror on the bed and stood, heading for the pile of stacked books in the corner of the guest room. He filtered through druidic spells, setting aside the ones that were useless. Generally, druidic spells were best for scouting. One could also aid life in growing, but Argrave had little need for that type of magic.
He paused, spotting the book on C-rank elemental magic out of the corner of his eye. He reached down and picked it up, walking towards the balcony. He pulled aside the curtains and walked out. The ocean crashed against the shore. One could see the grass plains and field of crops outside Mateth just barely. In the distance, ships travelled, magic flames swirling about them to light the path. Above it all, the red full moon stood, just beginning to wane.
Argrave opened the C-rank elemental magic book, leaning out across the balcony. He willed some of his magic into the book. Past D-rank, spell books had to be enchanted with spells to project a matrix. Once his magic stirred within him and exited from his fingers, the C-rank spell matrix of [Wargfire] hovered in the air just above the book. Argrave could see it, but he could not comprehend it.
It reminded him of a time where he had been looking at a giant mountain from a helicopter. The mountain had been so large, it was difficult for his mind to comprehend its scale. Argrave shut the book with an audible pop, sighing in quiet defeat.
Argrave held his hand out above the ocean, staring at his palm. He most often wore gloves for fear of getting dirty, so he rarely saw his hands and fingers. He conjured only the matrix of his favorite D-rank spell, [Writhing Lightning]. Briefly, he recalled those snow elves that had been left spasming from electricity, writhing despite having been long dead. The image left him quickly, disturbing his calm heart.
The spell matrix hovered in the air. It was a bizarre amalgamation of many 3-D shapes, but each had a purpose and a function, and they came together to execute a spell. It was a little like a ridiculously complex programming language, Argrave reckoned. The thought made him laugh, but he maintained the matrix.
As long as he put no magic power into it, the spell would not activate. Besides, he had no magic power—he had been siphoning most of it to repay Erlebnis for the magic loan.
From F to E, the only change was adding another dimension to magic. It took it from one line to multiple lines, branching off in different directions, forming shapes. They took shape, forming simple ideas and executing simple actions.
From E to D, another dimension entered the scenario. The flat shapes were given depth. Simple shapes could form complex models. The third dimension was the basis of all humans could perceive—the extent of their perception of reality. But, if one were to boil it down, all that was added was another line and a new direction to move. Another ‘plane.’
He clenched his hand, and the spell matrix dissipated into nothing. If he were to imagine the fourth dimension—another line, another path, another direction, another layer of complexity to the mystical force that was ‘magic…’
Argrave held his hand forward, eyes closed. He pictured that matrix that he had just seen in the book—a fourth dimension. A step away from the mundane. A step further from the grounded reality of his former life, and one into the abyss that was Berendar.
He opened his eyes again and willed his magic to his hands. The matrix of [Wargfire] materialized, and a great maw of flame roared from Argrave’s hand. It surged forward like a living beast, dancing into the night. Its fiery teeth came together and let out an echoing clack, like two solid fangs had genuinely met. Even from behind it, Argrave could feel the power. Then, it vanished into the night as though it never was.
Mute from shock, Argrave stared out across the ocean. His wide eyes slowly closed, and a smile spread across his face. He briefly worried that someone would come and see what exactly he was doing up here, but no one came. The night remained as silent as ever.
“I guess that wasn’t so bad after all,” Argrave smiled, kicking off the railing and standing straight. He stretched and walked back inside.
He walked over to the bronze hand mirror and picked it up, about to look at his new acquisition. Then, he came to a stop. He weighed the mirror in his hand, and then tossed it on the ground. He fell onto his bed in a disorderly heap.
“So many options just opened up for me…,” Argrave muttered into the bed. “It’s like I’m a kid who’s just walked into an ice cream shop, and I see hundreds of flavors arrayed out before me.”
With C-rank magic and the Blessing of Supersession, Argrave could become a force in his own right. Of course, he’d need to learn and memorize some certain spells. Naturally, as the ranks get higher, acquiring those rare spells becomes considerably more difficult. For the average spellcaster, at least—Argrave knew exactly where to go once the shackles of this invasion were broken.
For the first time in a long while, sleep came easily to Argrave. He did not even notice that his sheets were still sweaty.
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- Buried on a hill overlooking a little river with pinecones all around
Bio: Author of the #1 'Heroes of Berendar' fan-fiction. Vicar of Crust. President of the Richie Aprile fan-club.