Chapter 32: Breakthrough

That night, Kason lay on his bed in the junior dorms thinking about the events of the day gone by. Nixon’s unexpected outburst back in the clearing had shaken both him and Lexia. After his sudden exclamation, Nixon had remained in the tree, squatting on the branch and muttering to himself. Kason had thought privately that he looked much like an oversized crow, perched there on the branch in his black uniform.

Once he had finished his private brooding, Nixon had climbed down while Lexia immediately went up to examine the area as well. She had come down a short while later with no results and so, on their way back, they had both pestered Nixon to tell them what it was he had discovered.

Initially, he had refused to tell them anything, but after enduring their constant barrage of pleas, he eventually relented. He told them that he had used a spell to determine if any magic had been cast in the area, and if so, how powerful it had been. This had returned traces of an unusually complex and powerful spell, whereupon he had decided to try another spell to see if he could find out where the powerful magic had originated from, and it was this that had sparked his incredulity.

It was at this point that the content had become a bit too hard for Kason to understand. Nixon had said something about breaching dimensional walls and violations of some magical laws, but to Kason, it just went in one ear and out the other. What he did gather though, was that Nixon had failed to track the spell and that there was some problem with how the spell had been cast.

Kason thought about this as he lay on his bed. He now knew that something out of the ordinary had definitely happened back there in the Forest and this was probably bad, given that the spell had seemingly been targetting him. This obviously made him fearful and was currently keeping him awake, but deep inside, he had a vague feeling that he was not as worried about the situation as he should be.

He spent another long while just lying there in his bed, worrying. Occasionally, he glanced over at the shelf upon which he had put the necklace with the locket, in which rested the black stone. In the darkness, he couldn’t actually see the necklace but that didn’t matter. As he lay there, speculating, he couldn’t help but wonder whether the black stone had anything to do with it.

Lexia had said, after all, that he had been pulling at the necklace as if trying to remove it from his neck. Perhaps he had been trying to give it to someone? Perhaps that owl had somehow taken control of his body and was trying to get him to give the necklace to it? Whereupon it would promptly deliver it to the caster?

Kason scoffed and rolled over, dismissing this idea as lunacy. Obviously, it wouldn’t be something like that. Even if the materials that the locket was made from were quite precious, since Castor had managed to get hold of them, surely a powerful mage such as the one who had cast that spell would be able to as well? And as for the stone, it was just a random thing that had gotten into his shoe somehow. Surely it couldn’t be some all-powerful magical artefact or something of the sorts, could it? And even if it was, what are the odds that it would have ended up lying on a dirty path around the college?

Kason eventually fell into an uneasy sleep, but surprisingly awoke the next morning feeling quite good. His mood was further improved when he arrived at the dining hall and spotted Harper sitting at one of the tables. He walked over to sit down opposite him and congratulated him on his recovery.

They talked as they both ate breakfast and Harper told Kason about something his brother had told him the evening before, after he had returned from the Forest.

“Apparently,” he began, sounding slightly muffled around a mouthful of cereal, “there’s this society that runs towards the end of the year that’s only open to those students who pass the ether threshold early. It’s called something like the Young Quester’s society.”

Kason looked up from his food, his interest piqued. Harper took another spoonful of breakfast and continued, “According to my brother, if you join that society, you’ll actually be able to learn magic before you enter the second year!”

Kason put down the fork he had been bringing to his mouth and looked incredulously at Harper.


“Yeah!” Harper replied, “There’s only one problem though. You have to have reached the ether threshold before the second month in autumn, meaning we have just a bit over seven months left to get there.”

Kason looked at him worriedly, “Can we even make it in time?”

“I did some calculations while I was bored yesterday and found we would’ve been cutting it very close if we tried to do it normally.” Harper paused and his eyes began to twinkle, “But we don’t have to do it normally do we? We’ve got those devices that Jerald and the other guy made.”

Kason felt his heart soar as he realised this was true. He nodded and grinned broadly at Harper, who grinned back. That morning, he could hardly concentrate on his lessons as he was daydreaming about the society that Harper had mentioned, his thoughts of the necklace and the mage who might be targetting him driven to the back of his mind.

Later on, during their lunch break, Harper told Kayla, Lexia and Alford about the Young Quester’s society as he had to Kason that morning. They were all as enthusiastic about it as Kason had been, but after their initial bout of excitement, Kason saw Kayla looking worried. He was going to speak to her when he realised that she was probably worried about her own progress and whether she would be able to join at all. After all, she lacked both the headstart which Lexia and Alford had, and the improved filters that Kason and Harper were using. He stopped in his endeavour, unsure of what he should say to her and had still not thought of anything when they returned to the class for afternoon lessons.

The society remained on his mind for a quite a few days afterwards, mingling with the worry he had about whether they were ever going to be able to use the experimental filters again. Luckily, roughly a week after the night when Kamadus had woken Kason to tell him of the issue, Jerald found Kason and Harper to tell them that the problem had been fixed and they could begin to use the devices once again.

So began Kason’s usual life in the junior division. His nights were spent in the Medical Suite under Kamadus’ watchful eye, using the experimental device to increase his ether saturation, and his days in learning and enjoying himself in the company of his friends. Apart from another announcement concerning the, still missing pendant that had been stolen a while back, there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary that occurred. Much to Kason’s satisfaction.

One thing Kason noticed as the weeks passed by, was that their lessons became gradually more oriented around the various mechanisms of magic. From science to mathematics, and even language, the content of their lessons was slowly shifting until every lesson incorporated some aspect of magical application related to the subject.

They were taught in maths and language that a technique called ‘visualisation’ could be used to help draft and work through complex pieces of work. Kason particularly enjoyed it when Ms Luxford demonstrated this technique; the words on the book she was using had literally flown off the page and begun to circle around her as she read them.

In history, they had begun to learn about the more distant past, a time more than seven hundred years prior when an empire called Anor’phi had ruled over the majority of the continent and of the events that brought about its collapse. They learnt again, although only briefly, about the Seven Great Mages who had settled the first cities of Nevadil after escaping from Anor’phi, which at that time had been caught up in its last death throes, and the history of the colleges each had founded.

Ms Luxford seemed particularly excited to teach this topic. She told them with her eyes gleaming, about how their college was the very one founded by Constantine himself and told them sternly how thankful they should be to be able to study in such an ancient and prestigious institution.

Although these events were certainly interesting to learn about and inflamed the imagination to picture long gone times of splendour, Kason couldn’t stop himself from finding these lessons quite boring. He was pleasantly surprised that someone sharing his own name was mentioned in the annals detailing the college’s founding and early years, but apart from that, everything else just became a sea of dates and words in his ever-expanding collection of notes.

Geography was also another subject that Kason found rather a bore. Most lessons consisted of them examining various geographical features of the land which were generally quite dull. The most interesting lesson, in Kason’s opinion, had been one when Ms Luxfrod had brought out a map of Nevadil for the class to examine.

They had spent a whole lesson poring over the various names and places on it as well as gawking at the scale of it all. Constantin, it turned out, was situated more or less centrally, but also about as far north as it was possible to go. Further north and one came to the Duncalta mountain range which separated Nevadil from the dry expanses of the endless deserts beyond it, while to the extreme west and south lay only oceans. To the east was the vast Blackwood which stretched beyond the edges of the map and in whose outskirts Kason had been raised. He had, while Ms Luxford talked, tried to find Selmore village on the map but had been unsuccessful.


Spring passed and summer too, carrying away with them the festivals of High Hearth and Vigil. These occasions, which would normally be celebrated with vigour in any city and town in the outside world, were only mentioned briefly in the college. High Hearth had never been a popular festival in Selmore, so Kason didn’t really mind the lack of festivities on that occasion, however, Vigil was a different matter. Kason had always enjoyed the Vigil celebrations in Selmore, and so was quite disappointed by the lack of such at college. There were, of course, the customary thanks given to Eastwatch and the frontier guards but apart from that, no other festivities were observed.

Kason did not have the leisure to remain disappointed for long, however, because the passing of Vigil signified that autumn had come; meaning that there was only one month left to reach the 100C threshold if he wanted to join the Young Quester’s society. He was not too worried, however. At the rate he was currently going, he predicted that it would only take him another week or two to get to the required level.

And so it was that two weeks later, Kason walked into the classroom on athiday at the beginning of the week, heart brimming with anticipation. The previous week he had been on 98.0C so he was pretty much certain that he would finally reach the threshold. He took his seat next to Harper, who had reached 100C three weeks before, and waited impatiently for Ms Luxford to begin testing everyone.

Lexia had, unsurprisingly, been the first to reach the threshold first, with Alford following about a month later. Two others from their class had then reached the threshold and then after them, Harper. From their group of friends, Kason and Kayla were the only ones who had yet to get there, and as Kason was pretty much guaranteed to reach it today, that left only Kayla. She had made astounding progress, however, and seemed on course to reach 100C within another two weeks, much to everyone’s astonishment, apart from perhaps Lexia.

Eventually, after what seemed to be an age, Ms Luxford entered the classroom and began the usual routine of asking people forward in the same way she had all year. Kason, as always, was called towards the end, leaving him to stew in anticipation for half an hour or so. When it was finally his turn, he practically ran up to Ms Luxford and presented himself to her, bobbing up and down on the soles of his feet.

Ms Luxford noted his impatience with raised eyebrows and a faint smile before beginning. She placed her hands on either side of Kason’s head in the same familiar way and Kason readied himself for the etherial murmuring that usually accompanied the measurement process. He waited for maybe fifteen seconds before he realised that the usual feeling of empty-headedness was not materialising. He glanced uncertainly at Ms Luxford and noted a pleased expression on her face. She withdrew her hands from Kason’s head and beamed down at him.

“Well done!” she said, “It seems like you’ve gotten past 100C.”



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