Sebastian concentrated on the quill in his hand, moving it in a fluid motion across the parchment, copying the spells that he had practices time and time again. Writing the spells wasn’t as easy as he had once thought, every rune had to be copied exactly or otherwise, the reader might mispronounce the spell, causing the spell not to work or worse, cause injury to the one casting the spell. Tucking his long blond hair behind one ear, he studied the next rune. The curl of the rune wasn’t unfamiliar to Sebastian. He had a few books from his father who were meant for a higher-level wizard, any other student caught with these books would have suffered a severe punishment. Lucky for Sebastian his father was the Grand Master. Sticking his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, he carefully ascribed the rune onto the parchment, making sure to duplicate it perfectly.
A sea breeze blew through the crack of the partially opened window, lifting the musky smell of old books and age around the classroom. The silents were only disturbed by the soft scratching of quills on parchment, and the tread of the Grand Masters boots walking across the room inspecting the student’s works.
The Grand Master was a tall skinny man of indeterminable age; his pale skin attributed his many years closed up in a room studying tomes and scrolls. His thin brown hair was kept short so not to get in his face, graying at the side-show somewhat his aging years. His spectacles eyes were the color of emeralds. They took notice of everything in his sight; he only had to see something, or someone once for it to be etched into his mind. The hem of his silver robe swished around his ankles as he walked, slender hands that looked almost skeletal poked out from the darkness of his sleeves. The old Wizard always wore elegant robes. He said to define oneself as a wizard you dressed as such. All students wore similar robes over their clothes but the gray of apprentices, a student who passed the final test could opt to stay on and learn more, donning the blue robes of a learned wizard.
The Grand Master stopped to peer over the shoulder of a spotty boy.
“Again Peter, you clearly did not hear what I said. Do you have cotton in your ear’s boy? Burn that up so no one has the misfortune of trying to cast that spell, even if, anyone in this realm could decipher your runes.”
He tapped on the boy’s parchment and then tapped him on his head.
“Start again, and this time remember, if you are to copy another Wizard’s spell, you must copy it perfectly. Your runes are not even the same size as the runes of Aramis the great.”
A sharp intake of breath was followed by a sound everyone in the school knew too well, the rap of a hand on the back of the head. It wasn’t so much that the slap was hard; it was just that the Wizard knew how to hit the right spot to bring tears to your eyes. A collective breath was released as the master strolled over the polished wooden floor to sit in his comfy armchair, behind his massive oak desk. The desk’s size was added to by the vast number of tombs and scrolls that besieged the surface.
Sebastian often wondered what the tombs contained if it was the Grand Master which was reading them, even though he knew of his father’s private collection hidden in his study.
Finishing the last rune, he laid down the quill and deliberated over his work for any faults, not finding any, he reached for a small drawstring bag. Tipping a little amount of sand onto his palm, he sprinkled it onto the parchment to help the ink dry. Blowing the remaining sand to the floor, he arched his aching back to try to sooth the discomfort of sitting too long perched over his work. Stretching to one side, he caught a glimpse of a small ship sailing on the sea through the window.
The school of Aramis was founded by the famous wizard long ago, to teach the future generation the magic of old. Aramis built the castle up on a cliff face hundreds of years ago when the city of Salesor was more of a small fishing village. Wizards were a growing commodity in Kaikaria. Many of the population were used to the working of magic to some degree, but some still feared it as much as death itself. The Wizards of Aramis helped the city of Salesor with everything from growing crops, to healing the sick.
The city of Salesor showed their appreciation by given the school anything it needed. Many of the wizards that schooled at the castle later went on to make names for them self, such as Throl the white, who made the discovery that if you dried out and ground up Orc skin, it could be used to make a very powerful explosive, alas his demise wasn’t from any explosions, but from a troublesome orc that didn’t feel like giving up his skin.
Salsor was an enterprising town where any young man with a few gold coins, some savvy and a touch of good luck could find their way to a small fortune. The backbone of the city was its shipping port, and the ruler of Salesor was the owner of the largest fleet on the western side of the continent.
The Baron was a small pot-bellied man with big rounded shoulders from his years at sea, but what he lacked in height he made up within cunning. He started off as a ship’s boy, working his way up the ranks to second mate at the tender age of sixteen. One voyage saw the death of the first mate promoting him further; by the age of 21, he commanded his first ship and started trading on the eastern side of the continent, especially with the Minotaur of Rothinn.
It is said that the Baron’s courage on the sea boarded on insane, and that, as well as being cunning he is also vicious. The Baron gave up the sea to establish his trading headquarter at Salesor, bringing his wealth up to match that of the Prince of Daracia.
The city thrived with the trading, and people flocked to Salesor, swelling the population from three hundred to two thousand in just two years. Everyone knew that if you wanted the dearest fabric or the cheapest whore, Salesor was the place to find it. The Baron’s castle was situated in a cove on the south side of the town, close enough to the sea to keep a watch on his beloved ships, and far enough away for his own solitude. The docks of Salesor, where the Baron’s fleet berthed was a rough place, where cutthroats and thief waited for unsuspecting prey to stumble into their grasp, while in the north of the town, the streets were clean and the inhabitants were wealthier.
At the center of town a bronze statue of the Baron in his full sailing regal stood in pride of place, rows of streets spiraled away from this point with many streets intersecting them. Shops selling every kind of wares from herbalists to tailors were built-in whatever space the proprietor could find available, if you could see Salesor by air, you would believe that a giant spider had spun the web. Surrounding the whole of Salesor from the baron’s cove to Aramis’s castle in the northwest, was a twenty-foot high stone wall. The wall had two entries, one at the northwest named the Great Gate because of its proximity to Aramis’s castle, and the main gate, which was halfway from the Baron’s cove and the Great Gate.
Sebastian waited patiently while his fellow student finished their spells; the Grand Master opened a draw in his desk, sending a grating creek resonating around the room. Peter, the spotty boy who had just received a whack, swore softly and dabbed at his parchment with a cloth, trying to erase the offending mark of his absconding quill. Sebastian’s lip curled with a smile as the Old Wizard pulled out his smoking pipe and, with another loud crack, shut the draw. Peter swore again. His parchment was quickly starting to resemble his adolescent face. Sebastian resisted the urge to laugh by changing it to a cough. The Grand Master looked up from his task of lighting the smoking pipe.
“Nothing Grand Master.” He hid his smile behind a hand.
The Wizard puffed on his pipe sending a blue-tinged cloud of smoke up to the rafters.
“So I take it by your confident manner, that you have completed copying the seven spells set out by Aramis the great.”
The Grand Masters emerald eyes looked over his glasses intently.
The other students scowled at him; a girl went far enough to call him the Master’s pet.
“Maybe Janis, you think that an old man like me cannot hear you muttering under your breath way back there, let us see how you get on with speaking in a whisper for the rest of the day.”
The Wizard pointed at Janis. Sebastian saw the fear enter her eyes as her hands reached up to her neck.
“Please master I did not mean….”
Janis’s voice was as soft as the breeze blowing through the window.
Letting another thick cloud of smoke waft away on the breeze the Mage reclined in his chair.
“No you did not think, maybe you and Peter should take a lesson from Sebastian and get on with your work, instead of talking about whatever it is you young ones talk about. Goodness knows how you will get on with your final tests next week.”
Janis and Peter were audibly fearful of the fast-approaching test; it was the make or break of their ten years of studying. Parents who wanted a magician in the family brought their children up to the school to be tested once they turned 5 years old. A teacher would deem them to be worth, and they were placed within a room where the Grand Master would see them. Up to sixteen students were picked to enter each year, and their schooling started immediately. He had heard from the other children that it was a nervous experience. The Grand Master would ask you a question and depending on your answer you were emitted or not. Caitlin, a small blonde girl behind him, swore that she was asked if the honey from the Rothinn mountain bee could sustain death for a day. How anyone could know this was beyond him, but apparently Catlin did, or she wouldn’t have been in the room.
The Grand Master continued to puff on his pipe while the other students finished their task in silence. Once everyone’s quills were back in their stand the Grand Master cleared his throat and tapped out his pipe.
“OK students, who among you will be brave enough to perform one of Aramis’s spells?”
Peter sunk in his desk as the Elderly mage’s eyes glared around the room.
Sebastian, Catlin and a tall red-haired boy in the back of the class were the only students to have their hands in the air.
“Oh, not the response I was looking for. I thought maybe seven students, for seven spells.”
He slowly rose from his chair, placing his hands on his hips; he arched backward stretching.
“Becoming an old man is a tiring business,” he said with a grin.
“So let’s pick three and finish a bit earlier today, uh, I hear cook has cranberry muffins freshly baked.”
The Wizard beckoned the three students up to the front of the class.
From within the folds of his robes, he took out a candle, a silver coin, and seed, placing them on his table for the class to see. He then picked up the silver coin and turned to the tall red-headed boy.
The Mage pinned the tall boy with his emerald stare, making his cheeks glow red like his hair.
“I want you to use Aramis’s spell of levitation to lift the coin from my hand, make it spin for a few moments and then, gently lower it to the table, and to make it that bit harder I want you to only draw the energy required from myself.”
Godfrey nodded nervously.
“But we have only used animals as magic energies before Master, what if I…”
The Grand Master cut him short with a wave of his hand.
“Don’t worry dear boy, I might be old, but I’m stronger in magic than all you three put together, do not fear that you will take too much of my energy.” He said with a wink and a chuckle.
Godfrey shuffled over to the table and stood to face him. With trembling hands, he brushed back his unkempt hair and wiped his hand down the sides of his robes. Godfrey closed his eyes and draw in a deep breath. Opening his eyes, he started to mutter softly while he raised one hand towards the coin. The coin in the Grand Masters hands flipped up onto its side and danced around like a newly born fawn. Slowly, it began to rise and rotate. The coin started to spin faster and faster until it looked like a silver globe dangling and sparkling in the air. Godfrey never took his eyes off the coin as he gently guided it to the table, and with a plonk, it landed spinning. The nervous teen sighed with relief, letting his hand flop to his sides. The coin slowed and began to wobble making a whirring noise on the table until it stopped. The wizard showed no signs of fatigue at all as he patted Godfrey on the back.
“Well done my boy, splendid work.”
Godfrey smiled, letting out another deep sigh he slunk off to his chair.
The Grand Master walked over to the window ledge and retrieved two handfuls of dirt from within a potted plant, and came back to stand in front of Caitlin.
“Caitlin, I want you to use Aramis’s spell of growth, again you can tap into my energy to help you with the task. I don’t expect you to have the necessary energy required. If you would be so kind my dear.”
He gestured towards the seed on the table. Caitlin plucked the seed from the table and stood in front of the class. The Grand Master being taller had to stoop down so she could use two fingers to move the soil apart in his hands, creating a small hole for the seed to nest in. Closing the soil over with one hand, she patted the soil down and left her hand hovering over it. Closing her eyes she started to softly sing in a small sweet voice. Sebastian noticed the rise and fall of her small perky breasts as she sung, heat began to rise to his cheeks.
She gained in courage, and her voice became louder and clearer. The words she sang told of the cycle of life, the dead giving life to rebirth and the promises of protection and sustenance. Under her hand a tiny shoot poke through the dirt and danced to her song, growing with every breath. Leaves began to sprout, and a bud started to form on the crown of the stem.
Quicker and quicker the petite girl sang, and quick the flower grew until it’s petals sprang back from the bud revealing bright pink veins along the white petals, and a green center within. Caitlin stopped and smiled at the flower, gently she scooped it from the mage’s hands, bringing it to her nose her face brighten from the new fragrance. she slowly walked toward the window and planted it in another pot.
The Grand Master wiped a single tear from his eye and then capped.
“Bravo my dear, Bravo.”
The students quickly followed. Caitlin curtsied shyly and flashed Sebastian a smile, before returning to her chair leaving him standing alone at the front of the class. The Grand Master reached out and grabbed Sebastian’s shoulder.
“Last but not least ah. Well my boy, if you haven’t already guessed it, your to light the candle using Aramis’s spell of fire.”
He gestured with a grand sweep of his arm towards the waiting candlestick.
“But.” He said holding up a slender pointy finger.
“I want you to do this without speaking the words to the spell out loud. Need I remind you all, that this form of spell casting takes more concentration. Your mind must be blank; your intentions must be clear, otherwise, your spell may create an inferno instead of a flame, which will result in you ditch from draining.”
Draining happened when the spell cast used to much of the conjurer’s energy.
Every spell that is cast would require a certain amount of energy. With experience, a wizard knew what the cost would be, and would prepare in advance of the spell the energy required, just like Caitlin’s flower, which would have taken a week to grow the energy required would have badly taxed her being a young wizard. The Grand Master, on the other hand, would have felt a little drain having stored energy in advance.
Sebastian glanced at his audience reluctantly. His father nodded slowly in reassurance. He closed his eyes, relaxing his body and mind as he had been taught on his very first lesson. The darkness of his mind fell away as he expanded his consciousness throughout his body. Colors flashed and danced behind his eyes as he felt his magic swelling within him. He often wondered if other wizards have the same experience when casting a spell. He let his consciousness expand further until it brushed against the mind of the other students, making several of them shiver. He located his father’s mind easily. No two minds were alike, just like no two-finger prints were the same.
The Grand Master’s mind radiated power and when He entered it, he could sense the vastness of it too. He plunged into his magic; the master shivered and a puzzled looked crossed his face. His emerald’s eyes watched Sebastian’s face closely as he draws on his strength. Sebastian Drowned in his father’s magic, he envisioned a small flame leaving his hand and igniting the candle. Holding the vision in his mind, he opened his eyes and mentally spoke the words. With a flick of his fingers, a tiny flame shot from his fingertip to the wick, starting a small steady flame. He released his conscious bond with the Grand Master and drew back to his own body. His father still had a puzzled look on his face as Sebastian returned to himself and met his eyes.
“Well done Sebastian.”
The Master shook himself and continued on as if nothing had happened.
“Well done indeed, you may go back to your seat.”
Sebastian made his way to his chair as the Master’s voice rang around him.
“I believe you all are free of classes for the rest of the today, so I suggest you find somewhere quiet and study up for the coming test.”
The Grand Master gestured for everyone to stand and a loud canopy of screeching chairs filled the room. Raising his fore and index finger on both hands, he took a stance like a conductor readying to orchestrate a choir. The students groaned and began in a monotone voice.
“I plead to uphold the mantle of Aramis the great, and never let the secrets I’m instructed in be told to the unworthy. I plead with this knowledge to help others in the advancement of our races for better. I plead to resist evil, never turning to dark magic, or my soul is given to Durasken for eternal despair. This I plead.”
The old wizard nodded and clapped his hands twice over his head.
“Good. good. Now away with you, bring your completed spells to me, please and remember…”
The Grand Master couldn’t finish his sentence, as the children scurried out the wooden door into the corridor mingling with the stream of students on their way to other classes. Muttering under his breath about the youth of today, he turned back to his desk and sat in his chair. Just as Sebastian reached the door he called out.
“Son, a moment please.”
Sebastian turned to the master’s voice as he shuffled and rapped the student’s spell work on his desk.
“I’m sorry to inform you that our private lesson tonight, and for the immediate week will be canceled. I have had some new that needs my attention.”
Sebastian hid the joy at being told this. His father’s private lessons had made him an advance student; he knew more than most of his fathers learned wizards, plus his studies in other areas were very advanced too. Having the night off was a rare occurrence during the week. Normally only the weekend was free time for him.
“Will I see you for dinner father?” He asked trying discreetly to find out how much free time he had just gained.
Sebastian’s father sorted through the spell work nodding all the while, then he cast them into a metal dustbin and with a wave of his finger set them alight. The fire glowed green, and the gray-green smoke escaped the dustbin in curly tongues.
“No my son. I’m going away for a few days. A week at the most.”
He waved Sebastian quite as he opened his mouth to ask a question.
“It’s nothing of consequence just a visit to an old friend. Like I said, I’ve had some news, and I seek my old friend’s guidance on the issue. nothing more.”
He couldn’t believe his luck, not only did he have a whole day but maybe a week to do whatever he wanted.
“I trust that you will be OK here, alone? That I can count on you not to go and find trouble? ah.” His father looked over his glasses at him.
“No father” Sebastian stammered.
“I mean yes I will be fine and no, I won’t go and find trouble.”
His curiosity had awakened by the thought of exploring salesor, to faint his interest in his father’s expedition, he asked.
“Where does your friend live father? Is it far?” He shuffled toward the door trying not to seem to impatience to leave.
“Just across the narrow sea, a little island called Amisti Terram, it’s a two-day journey from here. My friend is a bit of a recluse. He likes the peace and quiet, probably one of the greatest wizards of our time. However, can’t abide people, silly really, but better off on his own where his studies aren’t interrupted, I will have to speak to the baron and charter a boat.”
He said almost to himself, picking up a quill to scratch some writing on a parchment.
“Take this to Merrit and tell him to deliver it to the baron’s dockmaster, a Mr. Gunnerson.”
Sebastian stepped to his father’s desk as he rolled up the scroll and took out a small lump of wax from his desk drawer. Placing it on the scroll, he muttered and waved his hand above the wax as it melted into his personal seal. He took the offered scroll as an idea struck him.
“I can deliver it for you, father. Merrit will be busy with getting your belongings packed. I know where to find the dockmaster.” He tried hard not to sound too excited.
He didn’t want to give away his true reason for escaping the castle.
His father’s emerald eyes fixed Sebastian with one of his legendary stares.
“You will go straight to the dock master not stopping on the way.” He punched every statement with a point of his finger.
“You will hand this to Mr. Gunnerson and come straight back here, no dilly-dallying.”
Sebastian performed a mocking salute and turn about on his heel as he had seen the baron’s guards do as a boy down on the docks. Closing the door behind him Sebastian collided with Caitlin, who had been waiting just outside the door.
“Can I come?” she asked shyly looking up at him through her lashes.
He felt the heat rising in his cheeks again.
“I’m not sure that my father will let you come to Cat.”
He showed her the roll of parchment and the Grand Masters seal.
“Why not?” She asked, pushing out her lips in a provocative pout.
Sebastian stuffed the scroll into his robes and pulled Caitlin along down the corridor. All the students were thinning out now, as many were entering other lessons. But he didn’t want anyone to overhear about his errand. He opened a door to a closet and pulled her in after him. Sebastian noticed two things very quickly. One it was dark and two Caitlin’s body pressed against his.
“Sebastian! what sort of girl do you take me for?” she said in mock disguise as she wiggled against him.
He spoke a word, and a globe of light appeared over their heads.
“Very funny Cat.”
Kicking a cleaning bucket against the wall he distanced himself from her supple body. Caitlin crossed her arms as Sebastian continued on.
“Father is going to visit a friend. I’m to deliver this to the dockmaster.” He patted his pocket. Caitlin grunted and swept back her hair behind an ear.
“What’s so special about that?”
Clearly upset over Sebastian’s rejection. She turned slightly to inspect the door, then smoothed out her yellow cotton dress. Sebastian noticed her smooth legs and swallowed. He shook his head and began to tell her of a girl he had seen delivering ink up to the castle, and his plan to find out who she was.
“Well, I don’t think your father will be impressed with your choice of companion. A scribe daughter is hardly fit for the son of the Grand Master, then again, who says that your good enough for this girl. Look at you, your just a scrawny little boy.”
Caitlin opened the door angrily, she the. swatted the light out of existence and stepped out, slamming the door shut. He was left in complete darkness and utter confusion. Not understanding what had just happened, he got up and opened the door. He just caught a glimpse of blonde hair and her gray robe disappearing around the corner, as he stepped out on the stone floor. Shrugging his shoulders, he followed slowly after her.
The corridor was cold all year round. The stone floor and walls didn’t hold any heat from the suns, and the heat from the fires didn’t last long once they escaped the rooms. Some of the corridor, especially near the grand staircase in the main hall had many tapestries. All featured Aramis in some form of magnificent activity from dueling wizards, riding on the back of Griffins the size of an elephant, to healing a wounded man and helping a sapling grow into a huge elder wood.
The main hall was extravagant in design. Two huge wooden doors opened wide to let people enter the building from the steps below. Your neck would ache walking up the stairs looking into the brightly lit hall; huge chandeliers hung from the ceiling, looking like the Suns themselves. Its grandeur made you feel small and insignificant, but once through the doors, the room wrapped around you. A cushioned seating area perched each side of the door and flowed to arches that entered to other sitting rooms. Four sweeping staircases met high in the middle of the room, each starting at one corner of the room, they met the wide walkway above that took you to the upper floor of this side of the castle. The room was completely symmetrical in all aspects, even the furniture and tapestries were duplicated.
Sebastian was on the west side of the castle now where most of the lessons took place. The rear of the castle sat on the cliffs and was home to the dorm rooms of the students. This was where he headed now, from the corridor he turned right entering a narrow stairwell, on the 2nd floor, he took a few more lefts and rights down similar corridors, up another stairwell brought him to the 3rd floor. He hurried to the common area, fresh dried hay and herbs covered the stone floor; tapestry around the room became more scenic, and the ceiling became lower. It was also a lot warmer in the upper levels because of the many dorm fires.
The smell of lavender from the floor circled him as he opened a wooden door with the letter’s SA burnt into it. Inside was a warm messy room. Books laid everywhere; books and clothes were intermingled on the floor like lovers under the covers; a book about elemental magic laid open on the bed as if the reader had fallen asleep with it. A smaller stack of books was being bombarded by parchment on a small desk by the window, even more, books were nestled up on high shelves.
He had the luxury of not having to share his room with another boy like all the other students, but unfortunately, he was having to share his cozy chair by the fire with a very unusual house guest.
A fire-drake the size of a small dog laid nose to tail on a pile of blankets. The fire-drake name was Satchel. He had been part of the castle, as long as he remembered, once when he asked his father about him he had replied that satchel came to visit one day with an old friend and that he never left. Sure he would come and go once in a while, but you could almost away count on seeing satchel sleeping next to the fire. Sebastian greeted satchel as he flew through the room, upheaving piles of clothes. He pulled his robes over his head and added it to a pile on the floor. From the same pile, he found some black slacks and pulled them on. He nearly fell when one of his shoes got caught in the hem of the leg. Searching around the room, he found a crumpled but serviceable red cotton shirt, and from a hook behind the door pulled on a tan colored leather coat.
Sebastian then stopped and looked around the room for his money pouch.
Satchel opened one eye lethargically.
An image of raw steaks and a metallic taste accompanied with the expression of hunger popped into Sebastian’s head.
“Sorry, Satch I totally forgot. Father wants me to go into town for him. I promise I’ll bring back some of the sticky beef strips you love.”
He lifted a book from the writing desk and underneath found his brown leather drawstring pouch.
Tucking the parchment scroll into his jacket, he threw the pouch into the air, Skipped over a pile of clothes, he caught it by the neck making the coins jingle inside. Satchel puffed out a short plump of gray smoke from his nostrils, curling up tighter he sent Sebastian another thought.
Sebastian was halfway through the door before he stopped and leaned back into the room.
He smiled. “You bet.”