Terria reached inside herself, feeling for the familiar pool of
energy that was her magic. She had grown used to this practice
since she had been drafted into the Academy and learned she had
magic - or at least the empty pool where magic was that she
absorbed from the world was stored within her, as her tutors had
so frequently reminded her. She wasn't particularly powerful, in
terms of her magical potential, but she did have powerful Gifts.
Her original Gift, the Gift of Sight, was the one she despised
the most. She hated being able to See the future, the past and,
most disturbingly, even the true desires of people. She hated it
because her life now held no surprises, she had seen it all, and
she was feared and hated by all but the most accepting of people.
She was especially feared by men most of all because... well
they're men and having their deepest, truest intentions known by
others inspires fear in them. And fear turns to anger, and anger
turns to outright destruction. She had been run out of three
villages for being drafted into, and saved by, the Academy.
The Academy was beautiful, in certain respects. It was the
pinnacle of architecture in all of Somhat, with its pure white
walls with pure golden runes crawling majestically throughout the
walls. The gardens within were beautiful and brimming with plant
life that existed nowhere else in the world, though only because
of all the magical energy that had become part of the soil and
air and all the things in between. The magical radiation had
mutated the plants; some were crystalline, some were sentient,
but all were beautiful. Though the gardens were beautiful, they
were a blackened stain in comparison to the Towers. The Towers
had always inspired awe in Terria - they were impossibly tall and
decorated with runes made from liquid diamond, a memory of the
ancient power the Old Ones had, that they could create five
towers from the raw powers of life and creation and then
decorating them with powerful runes had always inspired fear in
anyone that entered either the Temple of Five or the Academy.
The Towers were actually made from the five revered powers,
though most people in the outer regions of Somhat thought it was
a rumour used to attract tourists. There was Fire, the Tower of
war and power, with its flaming brilliance cutting through the
very air and clouds around it. There was Water, the Tower of
peace and healing, with its structure flowing towards the spire
and spraying outwards only to return to the bottom and continue
back to the top of the Tower. Together Fire and Water formed the
Upper Towers and they are equal and opposite in power. They
represent, to the people of Somhat, the duality that is at the
heart of creation and the balance that must be kept to stop the
destruction of everything. Fire and Water were the first of the
five powers to exist.
The Lower Towers were Earth, Forest and Metal and they are
worshipped by the non-magical as the trinity of life. Earth is
where life appears and is born; Forest is the growth and length
of life and Metal cuts down life. Altogether, the Great Towers
form the Temple and form the inner sanctum of the Academy.
Terria had never been in the Towers, but her tutors had taught
her that the Towers each contain one room - the crystal room.
According to her tutors the crystal rooms were at the very top of
each of the Towers. You had to climb a bright white marble
staircase up to a single wooden door and beyond that door lies
the crystal room. Inside the crystal room is a brilliant gem that
mysteriously floats in the exact center of the crystal room as if
held there by invisible hands, but her tutors had told her that
it is held up simply by the raw magic that each of the crystals
exudes. The crystals release raw magical energy that spreads out
into the world and is absorbed by those who have magical
potential. However, no one had ever been in any of the crystal
rooms because the raw magical energy that is created in the rooms
is so great that the fool that enters the room is consumed by the
magical energy and they are destroyed instantly. Such power from
a simple gem baffled Terria and her curiosity was always peaked
when her eyes strayed towards the Towers spires. It was also one
of the few things that made her thankful, and also irked her
somewhat, for her Gift of Sight because she had always wanted to
See into the great, revered and powerful crystal rooms.
But she couldn't.
Her Sight had evolved recently to allow her to See with eyes that
weren't hers, yet no eyes were in the crystal rooms.
Ugh, how come a Gift of such power is so useless, she thought.
Having gathered her power in her hand and then putting it all
back, the practice that apparently taught control, she wandered
to her wardrobe and changed from her shapeless bag of a nightgown
to her slightly less shapeless green and blue robes, signifying
her as a novice healer. The robes weren't entirely drab ... or
perhaps she had just grown used to them.
At least they're not that dull grey that initiates have to wear,
she thought. After putting on her robes she left her shoebox of a
room and aimlessly wandered through the novice quarter of the
Academy. The novice quarter was quiet, but that was expected,
with it being approximately two hours after dawn. Terria had
always been an early riser ... well not always. Not before the
nightmare had begun. She could remember the first night she had
the nightmare. She had had the same nightmare since that night.
Five beings all draped in white and glowing brightly. The first
time she had the nightmare it had seemed good, the pure white
glow gently heating her. Then the claws came. The five beings all
had these imposing claws that grew from nowhere that constantly
snapped at her, edging closer and closer. Yet the claws were not
the most horrifying part of her nightmare. Nor were the voices
that screeched and squawked at her. No, the end was always the
worse. Terria found that she could not move at all and then the
black being that soon followed chilled her spine and froze her
further into the already petrified state that she was in. The
black thing that scooped up the white beings, at first seemed
like a blessing, soon came back and showed Terria its face. Those
big, black soulless eyes and the voice. The voice. Even thinking
about it gave her shivers. The voice was laced with power and
completely devoid emotion. Then, finally she woke up. Dripping
with sweat and breathing short and fast, as if she had almost
been smothered to death.
Bringing her mind back from her memory, Terria had realised she
had wandered into the library. Wait, why am I worried, she
thought. All novices had to go through the library just to get
out of the dormitories; it was one of the ways in which the high
mages, her tutors, had designed the novice quarters to ensure
that 'knowledge was impressed upon novices right from the
beginning of the day'. Even as Malphas' words echoed through her
mind she selected the aisle that she needed to reach the gardens
and, from there, to the healer's school.
The gardens were, as always, on a scale of beauty that was
impossible to reach anywhere else in the world. The delicacy of
the crystalline flowers that grew and the majesty of the winding
oak trees, with their golden leaves and twisting trunks left
Terria breathless. However, Terria's favourite aspect of the
gardens around the Academy was the spring. The spring provided
all the water for the gardens and the stream that trickled into
the spring went directly underneath the Water Tower, resulting in
exceptionally clear and magically intense water. This, Terria
thought, was the reason for the unusual array of plant life
within the garden. How else could trees have golden leaves and
flowers be made from crystal, she thought, slightly chuckling to
herself at the, apparently obvious, idea. The gardens structure
was similar to the novice's quarters, in that you had to go to
the centre just to get to any of the three schools; the ominous
gateway that allowed newly graduated High Mages the choice to
leave or new initiates to enter and the final path that led
towards the Temple - the most magically potent place in all of
Somhat, perhaps even the world, and, of course, the living place
of the great, almighty and all powerful Sages.
No commoner was allowed to see the Sages; the wealthy and
powerful Families of Somhat rarely saw even the entrance to the
Sages living quarters. Not even the King or Highest of the High
Mages could see any of the Sages without it being an emergency,
but their power was always felt; like soft and gentle hands
caressing anyone who was Gifted of magically sensitive. This is
what gave the Sages their reputation that they were all seeing,
god like beings. It was almost fear inducing to know that the
people that the crystals had selected to be their guardians lived
only a few miles from where Terria slept. It was also sort of
pleasant to know that the most powerful beings in all of Somhat,
perhaps even all of the world, lived so closely that any thieves,
murderers or anything moderately evil were instantly put off the
idea to even come within a mile of the Academy.
As Terria returned to her thoughts of healing and not musing
about the most powerful beings living so close was either a
blessing or a curse, she noticed that someone was waiting within
the inner area of the gardens, which was unusual since no one was
up this early. Terria wasn't too worried about the fact that
someone else was up so early, but as she got closer she felt a
sharp tingle up the back of her spine. That sensation was
familiar and it sent uninterrupted horror through all of Terria's
body. It was the same sensation she had when she woke.
It was the nightmare.
It was happening in reality. She froze in horror as the light hit
the person, who had been recently hidden within the shadow of a
twisting Oak. The person's features were not visible, but the
clothing was horrifying enough. The person ... No the Thing was
draped all in white and looking not at her, but through her. Even
though no features were visible Terria could somehow sense that
it was looking through her, right into the depths of her soul.
She thought about seeing with its eyes just to check, but she was
paralyzed by the intense gaze of the Thing. And then it spoke.
"You have been Chosen" it said.
It had been five years since the Thing had spoken to Terria. Her
nightmare's had stopped since she had woken up three weeks after
it had spoke to her. Whether this was a blessing or an omen,
Terria didn't know. However, the gardens now were impossible for
her to stay in for any prolonged length of time. The crystal
flowers were harsh to her eyes. The twisted oaks golden leaves
were blackened in her vision. The once awe inspiring beauty of
the gardens was now a living nightmare that constantly reminded
Terria of the Thing in white.
Terria had changed too. The fear from that moment had turned her
hair from a dark, shiny brown to snow white and her eyes were now
windows not to the carefree soul of a promising healer to a more
mature, far beyond her years, and somewhat depressed woman.
Although the trauma of the event had left Terria broken for three
years, her spirit was slowly repairing itself and she was more
motivated than ever to heal others both physically and mentally.
She had finished her Novice-hood at the Academy and was in her
final few weeks of her Mage-hood. Soon Terria would be free of
the shackles that had bound her to the Academy for so long. Soon
she would become a Free Mage and be allowed to leave the Academy
and see the world for all its splendour and magnificence. She
would be free of the living nightmare the Academy had been these
last five years. And she would finally be able to use her Gift of
Sight without living in fear that the Sages would tear out her
Returning to the attention of her tutor, Malphas, she noticed
that most of her lesson had passed. She had taken no notes in
this lesson, she had learnt all there was to learn about the
human body and how magic affected it. "Now class, because you
have all been bundled together whilst the other classes are being
rebuilt after someone thought it wise to mix an acceleration and
healing spell into a small body, resulting in the explosion of
three of our healing labs, two of our operating rooms and half of
my own classroom" Malphas said, gesturing towards the charred
remains of what was left of his classroom, "I am going to remind
you of the cardinal rules of magic and the cardinal uses of
Oh joy, another lecture on how magic is meant to... Terria's
thoughts petered out as Malphas began his lecture. Though she had
heard it hundreds of times before, the lecture always made the
curiosity that was wound deep within Terria's being.
"Magic is to be used to serve and assist people, never allow it
to corrupt you. Magic can only manipulate what is already there.
It cannot create objects and - yes, what is it?" Malphas said,
clearly annoyed at being interrupted.
"If magic cannot create, how come we learn to make light and
fireballs and all the other stuff" someone said. A novice, Terria
"Good question. What you are actually doing when 'creating' balls
of light or fireballs can be explained, but the mechanics behind
it are difficult for a novice to understand. Basically, what you
are doing is focussing impossibly small objects together. For
example, when you 'create' a ball of water you are actually
gathering tiny amounts of water vapour ... err, steam ... and as
it gathers it turns back into water. That is the easiest
explanation of 'creating' objects, during your Mage-hood you'll
learn more in depth about the mechanics behind this practice of
magic during your Mage-hood". Malphas' explanation was slightly
confusing, as it was meant to be. Novices were not meant to grasp
the concept that magic manipulates millions of tiny objects when
'creating' objects such as fireballs and globe lights. It even
confused Terria she heard the first in depth explanation of the
mechanics of magic. "Now, those of you in your Mage-hood at the
moment will have already learnt most of the mechanics behind
magic, but you have yet to learn about objects and how magic
affects them. This is known as magical reactivity. Objects that
are magically reactive are incredibly useful in healing. There
are three objects that are the most useful, other than herbs, for
healing." This wasn't new to Terria, since she was nearing the
end of her Mage-hood and had learnt all the theory behind
magic."The first is Oak purely because it is, so far, the most
magically reactive plant material. It can be used for anything
from rapid healing, both internally and externally, to a minor
re-grow ... Any questions before I continue", a new mage raised
his hand, "yes. You" Malphas said, clearly not satisfied that
questions were already popping into the minds of his large class.
Malphas didn't like being asked questions, because he thought
that his explanation were always good enough for even the most
inquisitive of young minds. "What's a minor re-grow?" he asked.
Both Terria and Malphas groaned at the thought of having to
lecture one young mage on the aspects of re-growing body parts
and then the practical where Malphas cut off his hand to show
this. "A minor re-grow" Malphas said, with no attempt to hide his
aggravation, "is a complex method of healing used to re-grow body
parts that have been removed somehow. A minor re-grow is where
you re-grow smaller body parts, such as fingers, toes, hands and
feet. Minor re-grows can use any magically reactive material, but
oak is the most commonly used since a lot of power can be put
into it which makes the re-grow more effective. It is a complex
method involving blood, a lot of magic and whatever material you
are using for the re-grow. And again, before a novice interrupts
me" Malphas glared in the direction of the novice who had asked
him the previous question, "this is not 'creating', it is
manipulating tiny objects impossible for the human eye to ever
see. The blood acts as a template for the new body part so that
the body does not reject what has been re-grown. You will see the
practical in a few months, when the operating rooms have been
rebuilt." Malphas looked at the sundial in the window and saw his
lesson was almost over, "Finally, before I dismiss you to your
next lesson, some body parts cannot be re-grown. The head for
example - you lose that and you're dead. Other body parts
include: The heart, lungs, stomach and kidneys, though internal
re-grows are incredibly difficult. The genitalea cannot be
re-grown. The reason cannot be explained why these body parts
cannot be re-grown, but it is accepted that because these are the
body parts of life. The heart pumps your life blood. The brain is
where your soul resides. The genitalea make life and so on. Right
- class dismissed". Terria rose from her seat, gathered her notes
and was about to leave when Malphas spoke again, "except for you
Terria. I need to talk to you"
* * *
Rorrim filled the last water skin. Why must master Rodin send me
all the way to this stream to fetch his water when there's a pump
in the middle of the village, he thought. He knew the answer
though, it was because he was the only advanced Shifter in all of
Rodin's land. After filling the three large waterskins he called
his dog and gathered the waterskins. He then proceeded in the
painful process of changing his seperate body parts. He transformed
one of his arms into a hollow space for the first waterskin and
covered the opening with what was left of his fingers. He then
forced his spine to enlarge and exit his body. He hollowed out the
bones with his Gift and put the second waterskin in, followed by
the incredibly painful process of putting the bones back in. The
third skin would be a problem, he needed at least three limbs so he
had spare bones and muscles to channel to his legs. Carrying it
would be too diffcult. Hunter ran past. That gave him an idea. He
placed a hand on the dog and began to channel his Gift into the dog
and made it grow. And grow. And grow until it was the size of a
horse. Why didn't think of this before, Rorrim thought. He altered
his arm until it was the same as the other one and put the
waterskin into it. Riding would be difficult with no way of holding
onto Hunter. One last incredibly painful transformation and Rorrim
was able to ride Hunter.
Hunter was surprisingly swift when grown and they made it back to
the Manor in record time. He dislodged his feet from Hunter and put
the dog back to its original proportions. "Mater Rodin, Master
Rodin" he called, "I have your water, will that be all"
"Yes, you may go", a voice called from the stairs. "Just ... Take
the water out ... erm ... elswhere" Rodin said, now having looked
at the grotesque shape of Rorrim's arms. "Yes master, of course
master". Rorrim went into the kitchens and pulled out the skins
from his arms and re-shaped them back to theirorginal proportions.
Now for the back, he thought with a grimace. He forced out the
parts of his back bone that heput the waterskin in and therehaped
his bones so thatthe skin would just fall out. He then rapidly put
the bones back in and put them back to his original proportions.
"It had tobe three today, didn't itHunter?" Rorrim said.He would
ache for most ofthe day. Rorrim collected his payment and left for
the healer's to get his balm.
"Morning, healer Madhav" Rorrim said, with no attempt at hiding the
pain in his voice. "Ah Rorrim, I have your balm ready, though it
looks like you may need a double today - and a numbing tonic, no
extra charge for the tonic. Was it three today?". Healer Madhav was
popular among the people for his generosity and acceptance of the
Gifted. He never charged extra if the patient was in serious pain.
"It was three today, unfortunately" Rorrim said, rubbing his back,
"I don't understand what's so special about water from that stream
and, to be honest, I prefer something a little stronger than water"
"You see, the water from that stream goes underneath the Tower of
Water so it has special properties and Rodin is a Mage after all"
Madhav explained it so plainly it would have made perfect sense,
had Rirrom been listening. No, something outside had caught his
attention. A mysterious figure all dressed in white. No one else
seemed to pay attention to the figure, but, then again, very few
people were out this early. "There you go. And take some of this"
Madhav said, holdind a vial full of green liquid. Rirrom downed the
vial in one go and felt the familiar tingle that told him the tonic
was working. "Thanks Madhav" he said, placing his weekly payment on
Leaving the healer's, the melodious tones of the bell on the door
soothing him, The bellsmith really did a great job of creating that
one, Rorrim found himself thinking as he walked to where that
mysterious white figure had stood. The figure was gone, but a note
had been left. It read:
Head for the Academy and wait there until a person comes to the
You must take this person as far from the Academy as possible. Do
Head south to the black cliffs and never look back.
Most importantly of all, They are watching you.
Rorrim didn't know if it was thedrug-like quality of the tonic or
some sort of compulsion magic, but he felt the urge to do what the
note said. He gathered his things, transformed and headed towards