Having his success confirmed for him made Kason grin widely. He didn’t really feel any different from how he had at the beginning of the year, however thinking back, he realised that lessons had seemed to become slightly easier as the year progressed. He chuckled lightly, thinking to himself that he had finally gained the ‘super memory’ that Harper had been on about at the beginning of the year.
He returned back to his seat and the lesson continued. After that day’s lessons ended, Harper took Kason to sign up for a place in the Young Quester’s club. They wandered into the main building and through one of the many doors leading from the nexus into an office in much the same style as the Registry Office from all that time ago, with a red carpeted floor, high set windows and a chandelier.
He led Kason over to one of the desks and called out to the man on the other side. As they had been walking on over, Kason had thought he seemed familiar, but it wasn’t until Harper called his name that he realised who it was.
The man on the other side of the desk looked up and smiled as they approached, “Hi again Harper, and you were…” he squinted at Kason, “Kason. Right?”
They chatted as Kason filled out the necessary information, Brent asking each of them how they had found the college, given that the year was almost over. It prompted Kason to reminisce properly for the first time on the months that had passed since he first arrived. He thought back to the kerfuffle that had occurred with the Botanists during the first month and a half and smiled with a kind of fond nostalgia.
As for the mysterious mage who had targeted him with the spell deep in the Forest, he had been informed that on the basis of the information provided by Nixon and Hugo, the college had conducted an investigation. The investigation had not produced any further information, however, and so both the college staff and Kason let it sink to the back of their minds.
After he finished telling Brent about the events at the introduction fair, however, he scowled and fell silent momentarily. There had been one thing that had marred his otherwise enjoyable time at the college. Roan, the boy who he had met at the fair, had been a regular annoyance for Kason.
He seemed to have a kind of simmering hatred towards Harper that, by association, seemed to have transferred to Kason as well. Every time Kason saw him, he would always be greeted by some scathing comment or cruel jest which left Kason wondering in slight disquiet, what he, or indeed Harper, had done to elicit this kind of animosity. He mumbled about this to Brent as well, Harper nodding his head in agreement.
After signing up, Kason waited excitedly for more news on when the first session would be. He was disappointed, however, that after waiting a couple of days, no news had come and he was forced to conclude that no further information would come until the deadline for entry had passed. Therefore, he waited impatiently for the remaining two weeks to pass, which they eventually did with what seemed to be malevolent slowness.
He received the news he was after on the tarisday before the third week of waiting. He woke that morning to find his pendant, which he had left on his desk, all aglow with a blue radiance. After sweeping it off his desk and panicking for a bit as he tried to determine the cause of this unknown phenomena, he cast his gaze deep into the azure depths of the blue gem.
From within rose a message in the usual misty white letters which read, ‘All students who signed up to the Young Questers’ society should make their way to the Training Ground for one o’clock today.’
He read and re-read the message several more times and felt excitement rise up within him, he hadn’t expected the society to start meeting so quickly.
He immediately rushed out of his room and down the corridor to the common room to see if anyone was in there who he knew had also applied to the Young Questers’ society. In there he found Harper and Alford playing a game by the fire while talking animatedly to each other. He rushed over to them and asked slightly breathlessly whether they had received similar messages. They both grinned broadly, which was all the answer Kason needed.
So it was that just after lunch Kason, with Harper, Kayla, Lexia and Alford, made their way to the Training Ground for the first meeting of the society. They reached the place about five minutes early and stood around to wait for the rest of the students and the instructor to arrive. As they waited, Kason heard an unpleasantly familiar voice call over to them from within the crowd of other waiting students. Kason groaned, thinking of the scene that was about to occur and took a few steps back, hoping that he could avoid being noticed.
“Hi, Harper,” the voice came drifting lazily over the heads of the crowd, the distance not lessening its spiteful tone. A short moment later, and the voice was followed by the inevitable figure of the boy Roan who sauntered over with a few of his friends.
“I’m surprised to see you here Harper, I’m not sure why you’d want to begin displaying your inevitably woeful spellwork any earlier than you have to. If I were you, I’d have waited till the last possible moment, I mean, going by your track record unless you’ve changed…”
Roan’s voice trailed off, the taunt hanging in the air as he and his friends grinned at Harper. It was true that throughout the year, Harper had not performed quite as well as perhaps he should have in the field of magical theory, but despite looking annoyed, Harper managed to keep his cool.
Seeing that he was not going to get a response from Harper, Roan continued, “Oh, but where’s your little friend? I heard that he’s rather good at theory, perhaps he could help you.” Roan made a mock searching gesture, shielding his eyes from the sun and looking about as if he couldn’t see Kason. He then cast his eyes downward and made an obviously fake gasp of shock, as if he had just noticed him.
“Oh, there you are – Kason was it? – I’m sorry, I didn’t see you. You know, you’re just so tiny, I had a hard time finding you. You really do need to grow someday, otherwise, you might just be mistaken for a mouse.”
Kason flushed and scowled at Roan. He still remembered the conversation between Roan and Harper at the fair while Roan had been fussing over his dragon, it had seemed quite civil, so Kason knew he could be quite pleasant. Why he behaved like this was beyond him.
Just as Harper opened his mouth to respond, Alford walked forward, his large muscular frame standing out particularly in his uniform which had already become slightly small for him.
“Hie yourself off elsewhere,” he growled. One of the larger students in Roans gang of friends snorted and pushed his way forward as if prepared for a fight, but Roan spoke before he made it.
“Right you are,” he said in a teasing tone, “come on, we wouldn’t want to be caught by this, bear.”
They walked away, much to Kason’s relief, without much more fuss and Alford returned to their group.
“Quite unpleasant aren’t they?” Lexia commented.
The instructor arrived a short while later and gathered the group of around fifty students to the centre of the Training Grounds where she began to speak to them.
“Welcome everyone,” she began, “to the Young Questers’ society. My name is Ms Hargreve and I will be your instructor for the first two weeks of this society, after which another instructor will take over. As some of you may have guessed from the name, this society is run indirectly by the Questers’ society with the purpose of teaching you some basic magic to both, make it easier for you at the beginning of the second year, and satiate your inevitable desire to do magic, now that you’ve all reached the required ether saturation levels.”
She paused and took a sip from a bottle that hung from her belt before continuing, “Let me remind you though, as I’m sure your teachers have already, that just because you’ve reached the initial threshold, does not mean you can stop raising your ether saturation. If you lot ever want to be able to cast anything more that cantrips, you’ll need to keep raising your tolerance to higher levels.”
She sighed and then hoisted a bag of the ground at her feet over her shoulders, “Well, no point in waiting around any longer, might as well get started with the first steps.”
Ms Hargreve then walked among the students passing each of them a leaf, a pebble and a short wooden rod. Several other students in senior division uniforms also came from behind the group and began to hand out the same equipment. When Kason received his lot from one of the senior division students, he weighed them all in his hand and examined them curiously wondering what they were going to do. He cast an enquiring glance around at the rest of the group to see if they knew, but all of them wore the same inquisitive expressions as him.
Once everyone had been given the strange set of three items, Ms Hargreve returned to the front of the crowd and began instructing them on what they were going to do. The wooden rod, she said, was a trainee wand that they would be using as a focus for their spellcasting, whereas the leaf and pebble were just ordinary leaves and pebbles.
Kason’s eyes widened when he heard that the stick was a wand and he looked at it with renewed attention. He knew what focuses were, of course, they had learnt that early on in the year. Generally, before a spell could be cast, the caster needed to gather sufficient ether from their surroundings to provide ‘fuel’ for the spell. This process, they had been told, was often the most time-consuming part, especially for novice mages who weren’t used to the process, so focuses were devised to automatically gather ether from the environment around them so that the mage didn’t have to.
After having explained their equipment, Hs Hargreve began to tell them what spell they would be casting. “Today, I have decided to get you to try aided telekinesis. This is probably the simplest magical process and isn’t really even classified as a spell. It is called ‘aided’ telekinesis because you will be using a focus to help you, whereas normal telekinesis should be accomplished without one.”
She then proceeded to explain the theory behind it and gave them an example by taking another stone and making it float above the tip of her own wand. She then directed them to begin trying to make the leaf they had been given float above the tips of their wands as she had just done with the stone.
Kason placed his stone down by his feet and laid the leaf across his palm with his wand held tight in his other hand. He gazed at the leaf feeling not a little disappointed. He had understood that they wouldn’t be working any grand magics, especially seeing as they weren’t even in their second year yet, but he was still a little disheartened at the seeming mundanity of the task they had been set.
That being said, he still set to work as they had been told to. He followed the steps that Ms Hargreve had demonstrated and tried to focus all his attention on the leaf laying on the centre of his open palm. Then he pointed the trainee wand at the leaf and mumbled, “Lift.”
He knew immediately that he had failed. For one, the leaf was still sitting resolutely on his palm, unmoving, not even a quiver. For two, he had not felt the slight pressure building in his head that he had been told to expect during the process of cast a spell. He tried a few more times with no more success and then stopped to think what he might have been doing wrong.
He looked around to see how everyone else was getting on and saw that no-one seemed to have had much success. Harper was staring so hard at his leaf that he was going crosseyed and was mouthing what seemed to be the word ‘up’ over and over again.
He looked back at his own leaf and contemplated it for a few moments, wondering whether he should change the incantation he was using. An incantation, they had learnt, was a word or series of words that helped the caster to direct the ether at their command to accomplish a task. Depending on the skill of the mage and the complexity of the task, some people could forgo incantations completely but for novice mages such as Kason, such methods were essential.
An incantation, they had been told, should try to describe in the most concise way possible, the task that the mage wished to accomplish and therefore, which words were used often depended on the mage and their understanding of the magic they were trying to cast.
Kason had thought that the word ‘lift’ would be sufficient, given that the leaf appeared to be lifted into the air, though now he wondered whether that was good enough. He tried several more words, but none seemed to have any more effect than ‘lift’ and so he went back to thinking. His thinking was, however, disturbed by Harper who let out an explosive breath and sighed an exasperated sigh.
“I can’t get it to work!” he exclaimed dismally.
Half an hour later, there had still been no progress by anyone, and the atmosphere on the Training Ground was becoming more and more agitated. People were becoming louder in their incantations, which didn’t exactly help Kason’s concentration, and a few had just given up and were sitting on the ground with bored expressions on their faces.
Ms Hargreve and her senior division helpers moved among the students offering advice and suggestions and also telling the odd loud-mouthed student to be quieter. Kason was still persevering, he had decided that the word ‘rise’ was the best incantation to use because several of the times when he had used it, he had felt a slight pressure in his head. Although he did wonder whether this was not a headache brought on by the long period of concentration.
Kason was, though, slowly finding it harder to concentrate. A feeling of tiredness was slowly creeping over him and making it all the more difficult to focus on the leaf still sitting on his palm. He was just starting to daydream about the meal he had eaten at lunch roughly an hour ago when a loud shout from just behind him startled him into alertness.
“LIFT OFF MY PALM YOU DAMN LEAF!” a male student bellowed in frustration, eyes bulging and wand arm shaking.
Ms Hargreve immediately came over and told the embarrassed looking student to shut up before moving away again. Kason let out a light smile and looked down at his leaf again. He looked at it for a short while then pointed his wand at it in a determined fashion. He had decided that this was the attempt where it would happen. If it didn’t, then he would give up until the next meeting.
He tried to eliminate everything from his thoughts other than the leaf and went through the steps on more time in his head, before opening his mouth to say the incantation.
For a moment, Kason suspected that he failed again, but then something seemed to open in his head. He felt as if something was continuously rushing into his brain from all angles and then being expelled towards his wand. It felt quite uncomfortable and caused him to scowl slightly from its suddenness.
The leaf in his palm wobbled and then, miraculously, began to float upwards! It rose up off his palm into the air, following a straight line upwards towards the sky. Kason lowed his shaking hand and let out a cry of delight as he watched the leaf rise slowly, his wand following it as at it rose. His cry alerted others near him and he heard their gasps as they saw what was happening.
He felt a sense of wonder bubble up within himself as he watched the leaf, which was still going higher, continue its journey upwards. Then, all of a sudden, a feeling intense tiredness washed over him and his knees buckled.
He fell to his knees on the spongey grey surface of the Training Ground, head still tilted back, watching his leaf which was now spiralling down towards the earth.
First chapter of the new year! Happy new year to all