Chapter 29: An Opportunity

Kason stood with Spencer and the other senior division students for another couple of minutes. From what he could hear, the babble of the crowd outside seemed to have quietened and someone was now speaking to them. Kason couldn’t quite hear what they were saying from inside the tent which he found slightly strange given that they couldn’t be standing that far away, but he wasn’t too bothered about it.

Eventually, Spencer tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention and told him that the demonstration would be starting in just a few moments, so he should make sure not to wander off. Kason nodded to show that he understood and looked expectantly towards the tarpaulin-covered something in the middle of the tent.

Given that there was nothing else that was particularly noticeable in the tent, Kason assumed that whatever it was under the tarp would be the subject of the demonstration. As he had noted before, the tarp gave no indication of what was beneath which only made Kason more excited, wondering what was kept there.

Then Jerald, who was standing at the head of a group of senior division students, made a large swiping motion with his wand which he had pulled from somewhere. The tarpaulin flew high into the air and from beneath it emerged a large contraption which looked much like a large flower (in shape if not in colour), covered with many blue glowing lines and symbols.

Its ‘petals’ branched out from the base, curving upwards slightly as they got further away from the main body, enclosing within a small golden rod that stuck up in the very centre. Kason immediately recognised it as the one he had given to Jerald only a short while ago and wondered, given its auspicious placement, what it was supposed to do.

Kason stared at it, entranced. It looked just, well, magical. His eyes roamed over its surface, following the pulsating aquamarine patterns, and as he looked, he tried to discern from some distinctive features, what its intended function was.
Kason then saw out of the corner of his eye, that Jerald and the other senior division students were beginning to move again. The all lifted a variety of instruments in unison and made the same movement, bringing them sweeping through the air to point at the machine in the centre of the tent.

Kason assumed that they were casting some spell of some kind because Jerald was using his wand, however, the implements held aloft by the other students made him slightly doubtful. Several were brandishing some variant of measuring stick and others had other tools grasped in their hands that Kason wouldn’t really associate with magic.

As Kason continued speculating, the magic that Jerald and company had cast began to take effect. The machine in the middle of the tent gave a soft whir and the ‘petals’ began to vibrate slightly. After a few moments, Kason saw a barely visible blue coloured mist begin to appear within the confines of the ‘petals’; particularly around the yellow rod.

Then Jerald made another motion with his wand and suddenly a great force slammed into the top of the tent, pushing it upwards so that it looked like a huge dome and placing enormous strain on the tent pegs which struggled to keep the tent firmly attached to the ground. Less than five seconds later, with a clatter of falling tent pegs, the tent flew high into the air, rippling in the wind as it climbed; looking like a flag that had gotten free from its post.

Jerald’s face was frozen in shock as he followed the tent’s path through the air with his eyes. Even as he remained there immobile, several of the senior division students who had been working with him hurried away to catch the tent before it fell.

There was a smattering of applause from the crowd who were still waiting behind the low rope and several whoops. It sounded like the crowd was unsure whether or not this was supposed to be part of the demonstration.

As if awoken by the noise, Jerald unfroze and walked around the machine so that he could stand in front of the crowd.

“Hello!” He said weakly, “Welcome to our demo. We’re the Webmasters’ Society form Engineering and Enchanting. This year, we’ve brought out a project that some of the senior graduates made in collaboration with a few of the professors about halfway through last year.”

He motioned to the flower-esque machine behind him with one of his hands. Kason found this to be a wholly unnecessary move, given that the machine was now one of the only things left behind now that the tent had been sent flying.

“This machine is a small-scale replica of the spell towers that came out a couple of years ago and it was designed to focus on speed of casting, instead of power or efficiency as most commercial models are. So, we managed to bring this thing out as our demo because several of our older members actually worked alongside the professors and senior grads to build this thing!”

Jerald paused and coughed once or twice. “That and it’s also one of our more exciting projects as well.” He added. “Anyway, you didn’t come here to listen to me talk about it, so I’ll just get in position and then we can fire this thing up properly and show you what it can do.”

There was a round of enthusiastic applause from the crowd as Jerald retreated back to the group of senior division students that he had been with before. Once he reached them, he looked around at them briefly before giving them some signal and they all waved their variety of instruments above their heads again. This time though, Kason could see several of them muttering some words he couldn’t make out as they went through their movements.

Almost as soon as the group began their new round of spellcasting, the machine began to whir louder than it had been before, the barely audible hum becoming a dull drone. The faint blue mist inside the ‘petals’ also seemed to become denser, adopting a steadily deeper shade of blue as it did.

Then, after only a couple of seconds, a spark seemed to ignite just above the top of the yellow rod in the centre of the blue mist. A column of flame shot high into the air above the machine, eliciting cries and shouts of shock from some of the younger members of the audience. Kason was also surprised by the fire’s sudden appearance and took a step backwards from where he stood.

Just as abruptly as this column of flame had appeared, it shrank down so that it barely reached above the tops of the ‘petal’s’ curved ends. Then with a great whoosh of whid, that Kason could’ve sworn carried the cry of some bird, the fire turned a striking emerald colour and flew from within the machine over the heads of the crowd, which shrank away from it as it passed overhead.

Kason watched the fire’s passage over the crowd and was surprised to discover that it seemed to have taken the shape of a bird! The flame bird apparition circled over the heads of the excited crowd a few times and then returned to the machine. Just as it dived back into the top of the machine, however, a great wave of water came gushing out from within the blue mist and swallowed the bird whole.

The flame bird promptly exploded with a loud bang and sent droplets of water flying in all directions. But before these droplets could fall to the ground below, Kason saw that they morphed into fishes of different sizes and began to swim through the air; gathering together until there was one big shoal of them swimming in unison around the crowd.

Kason couldn’t tell how long the display lasted. After the fish, an earthen figure in the shape of a man, except for being many times taller, seemed to unfold from within the machine. It strode towards a terrified-looking junior division student which it lifted up in the palm of one enormous hand and placed on top of its head before parading around with them still up there. When the student was let down, he looked slightly dazed but was smiling nonetheless.

After the earth giant, several other displays of element-themed magic followed before the machine’s whir went quite and Jerald and company lowered their arms. Jerald looked okay, a bit tired but okay, but several of the other senior division students in the group looked like they could faint at any moment.

Jerald then walked back to stand in front of the crowd, which gave him an ardent bout of applause to which he smiled appreciatively, before speaking in a slightly hoarse voice.

“Well, I think we managed to show off what this thing can do. Those of you who can already cast magic know that to do any of the spells we cast just now requires a mixture of power and skill that most mages cannot achieve on their own. One solution to this is to gather together a group of similarly skilled mages to do group casting, but that requires all the mages to be familiar with each other and highly coordinated. This machine eliminates the need for this high level of coordination and teamwork, and could even be worked by one solitary mage if we had the full piece of kit down here.”

He pointed to a few empty sockets on the side of the machine and continued his explanation. “There is actually a terminal which is supposed to be used with this machine. Its job would have been to coordinate all the machines functions so that it could cast the spells effectively, however, seeing that we didn’t have it, we had to resort to group casting in order to replace it.”

He paused a little, looking a bit embarrassed, and then continued, “Well, that sort of invalidates the whole point of the thing. But the speed it can achieve in spell activation is something that most mages cannot achieve without considerable practice.” He paused again and looked around at the crowd his mouth open as if he were going to say something.

“Well, that’s all for our demo.” He said eventually, “If you want more information on our society then just speak to any of the senior division students around the machine and they can hopefully fill you in.” He gave a shallow bow and stepped back away from the crowd before lifting his wand and waving it. The low hanging rope in front of the crowd lifted off the posts which had been supporting it and flew off to the side where it collapsed in a heap.

Jerald then walked away from the crowd, who clapped one final time, and towards Kason. Kason, who had been reminiscing about the magnificent show which he had seen a couple of minutes ago, didn’t notice his approach until he was standing right in front of him.

“I prepared a proper speech to give after the demonstration but, by the Seven I can’t it anymore.” Kason heard Jerald mutter as he reached him. Kason, who was slow to arise from his reverie rushed to think of something to say to comfort him, but Jerald began to speak before he could.

“Anyway, I owe you for bringing that piece back in the nick of time like you did.” He said.

Kason immediately thought to explain that he hadn’t really found the piece. “Ah, I didn’t find it. I mean…” he then suddenly remembered Perceval’s warning not to tell Jerald it was them who had taken the piece and his mental processes ground to a halt.

“I mean, I didn’t do it alone.” He finished shakily.

“Ah right, your friend helped as well didn’t he?” Jerald said, remembering about Harper. “Well, I owe both of you still. Is there anything I can do for you two at the moment?”

“Umm…” Kason thought for a moment. Given that he still couldn’t cast magic, there wasn’t much point in asking for anything magic related, otherwise, that would’ve been the first thing he asked. He continued thinking for a minute or two, but nothing really came to mind. “I don’t think so…” He replied eventually.

Jerald looked at Kason for a short moment as if considering something and then began to speak, “You’re still a first-year right? Still training up your ether saturation?”

Kason nodded.

“Well…” Jerald began slowly, “There’s a bit of an experimental project I’ve been working on lately with some of my friends which could theoretically reduce the time it would take you to increase your saturation. It’s only an experiment of course, so there’s no guarantee that it will work, but if you and your friend want to help out as test subjects, then we could get some vital test data and you two could increase your tolerance faster.”

He paused and then added hurriedly, “It’s nothing dangerous! Well, we don’t think it will be, but it would mean staying with Kamadus in his medical suite for a month or two to make sure nothing goes wrong. So, what do you think?”

He looked at Kason expectantly to be met with Kason’s eager expression. Kason’s eyes had begun to sparkle as soon as he heard that it would mean he would be able to cast magic sooner. he had hardly listened to anything after that, having been immediately swept up into daydreams of him using magic.

He came back to his senses when he heard Jerald stop talking. “Yes!” he answered immediately, then suddenly thought for a moment, “Actually, I should probably ask Harper as well…”

“You go and do that. I’ll be here for a few hours still so come back once you’ve gotten his opinion.” Jerald replied, nodding his head to show his understanding.

Kason nodded and, hardly able to contain his excitement, ran off to find Harper in the now scattered crowd.





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