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I didn’t mean to kill Langrius. I had no idea what I was thinking when I jabbed my wand into his back. I was hoping for something else to happen. Anything else.

I wanted the wand to work. I had finally been able to get it to spark, but no spells I knew from our world seemed to work. The magic system was very broken here.

“Is everyone okay?” Stephanie called out.

“I’m fine,” said Hugh. “Should have worn my brown pants but I’m fine.”

We were all alive, but Neil’s arm was bleeding profusely. Steph and Lucas quickly attended to it. I briefly remembered Hugh telling me that they were both certified in first aid a long time ago. I thought it better to let them handle it. 

I looked at my wand. It felt warm in my hand and happily shot out sparks, as if it was pleased it just felled a necromancer. I just felt sick to my stomach.

“Guys? It’s happening again.” Neil pointed to the charred body. It was coming apart, much like the beast from the woods was when we defeated it. Flakes flew off it and were blown away by an unknown wind. All that remained was a tiny treasure chest. We all approached it. After some anticipation, Hugh opened it.

Inside were some more of the coins. Some appeared to be bronze, others silver. “I guess this is our bounty.” Stephanie said. We decided to split the coins equally. I got five copper pieces and one silver piece. Someone made the point of searching the dungeon. We all started searching.

“Hey,” said Hugh, coming over. “You don’t look good. Are you ok?”

The last shriek of Steward Fluffle Langrius rang in my ears. I nodded weakly. That seemed to satisfy him, and we continued to look, but found nothing. Finding no other reason to stay we retraced our steps to the entrance of the crypt, and back through the sewers. Soon enough we found ourselves squinting in the daylight as we exited the dungeon.

Townsfolk poked their heads out the window, their mouths open with astonishment. They must have never seen anyone return from the catacombs alive. We were covered in filth from the fighting.

Hugh revelled in the attention. “Ahoy people! We are mighty adventurers and we have just slain the necromancer! No longer will you have to cower at night!” he roared, throwing his arms open. At this the mouse folk cheered and began celebrating. I couldn’t help but smile and wave back at them. 

“Yes, you’re welcome and all that,” said Neil. “But perhaps I can get someone to look at my arm first?”

He had taken off his shirt and wrapped his arm with it, for lack of a bandage. He was going to need a change of clothes. We all were. I wondered if there was a place here where we could get clothes our size.

“Make way! Out of my way!” a mouse wearing a doctor’s smock and spectacles appeared. “Doctor Cuddlius Normans, at your service. It would be my honor to treat your wound.”

She said she would bring Neil right back as soon as he was stitched up. The rest of us followed the road back to the keep for a celebration being held in our honor.

The courtyard of the keep was lit up with torches, and tables laden with gourmet food lay before us. I had never smelled such delicious food in my life. It smelled like a county fair. 

We were invited to sit on the benches and join the festivities. At some point, Neil came back, his arm covered in bandages, all washed up and wearing a different set of clothes. They fit in with the atmosphere better. I envied him a little. I was starting to stink. 

Everyone was eager to please us. The court jester, Wimble, kept Hugh and me in stitches with the most outlandish stories and jokes. For the first time since we got here, we were relaxed. We were among friends. The ale flowed freely and pretty soon I started to feel tipsy.

Later in the night, I found myself introduced to the court wizard. He was a humble looking mouse, with kind eyes, gray fur, and a silky beard. He had a look about him that he was more into reading that anything else the world could offer him. 

“Lady Rachel,” he introduced himself. “I am Gizzard.” He extended his paw and bowed. Being a little drunk, I grabbed his paw and shook it. I swear I was trying to be polite. Gizzard looked confused at first but quickly understood it to be a sign of mutual respect and smiled.

“Nice to meet you.” I replied.

I confessed to him that I haven’t been able to do magic, and that I had no idea what I was doing. Boy, was I tipsy. He patiently listened.

“How do I cast magic?” I asked.

“How does one know how to fly in a dream? The power is remarkably similar, It is the power of belief in one’s own capabilities.” he replied.

“You mean I can do magic through lucid dreaming?”

“Not quite. You see, to cast a spell you do not need muscles or intelligence, but will power. The will is what defines the power, and your wand is an instrument for it.”

“Do I need a wand? The steward- I mean the necromancer cast magic without one.”

“So Langrius was the agent of the dark lord?” The wizard looked troubled. “I had my suspicions but with nothing to act on….”

He looked up. “Apologies. I fear a lot of good people may have avoided death if not for my hesitation. Without any solid evidence….” 

“But to answer your question, no you do not need a catalyst.” He held out his hand. A flame appeared in it. “Anyone can learn to cast magic, but it requires discipline, like any other subject of study.

“A catalyst, such as your wand enhances casting in some way or another and might I say, are very rare. How did you come across this wand?.”

“I found it.” I said lamely. I couldn’t think of how to explain the rest of it to him.

“May I see it?” he asked politely.

I hesitated. I just met this mouse. I didn’t know if I could trust him. But I looked into his eyes and saw kindness. I handed over the wand. He held it very gently, as if it were made of glass.

 

“We call those who study magic arcanists. Arcanists can cast spells without catalysts, but they need to be disciplined enough. In theory, they can use anything magical as a catalyst. But the spells might become a little more unpredictable.”

He looked at the wand longingly, but handed it back to me. I wondered how rare wands were in this world.

“If it would please you,” Gizzard said, snapping me out of my train of thought, “You could stop by my tower tomorrow. I have plenty of books and scrolls you may find interesting.”

I agreed enthusiastically. I was finally going to learn magic! 

We soon started to get tired, and were offered sleeping mats in the great hall. There was enough room for us to space out, but we were still pretty close together. It felt like a sleepover. Hugh and I curled up on our mats next to the west wall. We were given multiple pads to accommodate for our size, but it was still uncomfortable.

I had a hard time falling asleep, yet somehow I did. 

The next morning we reconvened outside for breakfast, where fortunately there was no rain. Lord Roman made his way over to us. His fat jiggled and lurched ineloquently as he moved. 

“Heroes! Hail!” he cried. He was in a jolly mood. 

“Well met!” replied Neil. He was getting more and more into the fantasy world. We all were. For the moment we were all relaxed. No worries about returning home. What waited for us there anyways? Bills, taxes, and ungrateful patrons?

“I want to thank you again for your bravery. Word of your deeds have already swept across the land.”

“It was nothing, I assure you,” said Hugh. Always the modest one. He winked at me. Who knew how much ale he had tucked away in that cape of his. 

“Indeed, I am sure such a menace was but a trivial task for you. Here I have for you some messages from our neighbors, who also seek the aid of adventurers such as yourselves.” Roman flourished in his hand several envelopes. He passed them over to Stephanie.

“Long may you live!” he cried and exited.

Neil took the letters and looked them over. “Kobelskill, Morrow, and Gothwell. These are supposed to be the next stops in our journey.”

“Supposed to be?” I asked. I loved board games like the others, but RPGs still went a little over my head. I used to be the best in the chess club, but later lost interest and became a theater kid. 

Thankfully Hugh was there to explain. “It’s like any story. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. We’re now in the middle.”

“I believe it’s called a ‘campaign’.” said Stephanie.

“So what are these places?” asked Lucas.

Neil thought for a moment. “Kobelskill is a town enslaved by goblins. Morrow I haven’t written yet. And Gothwell has vampires.”

“Are those the places we should be going?” Hugh asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, did you design the endgame yet? We could go right for him and end this now.”

“You mean you don’t want to explore for a bit?”

“What?” Hugh said, stunned. Then he considered the possibility. We had talked about taking a vacation before. But we were always busy, and had started to get busier. 

“Think about it! Life here doesn’t seem too bad. Deep down you know you’ve always wanted to go on an adventure! I think there has been a call, and I chose to answer that call!” said Neil defiantly.

“I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on our world, but I’m curious to see what this place has in store for us.”

“Thank you, Stephanie!”

“What is the fastest way to beat the Dark Lord?” I asked.

“Well we would have to level up considerably, improve our gear, make allies, it’s a bit of a process. But I think I know where to start.” Neil pulled out and unrolled the map.

“Where is that?”

“Here.” He pointed to a region covered completely by desert. It was wide, and if the key was to be believed, it could be crossed in a day.

“And what do you hope to find in the middle of the desert?”

“Otomipent, the Watcher.”

“Who is that?”

“He’s my patron god. As part of our character setup I picked the chosen one trait, remember? Anyways he’s an all seeing being of darkness. I think I should find out what I’m chosen for.”

“Will it be dangerous?” asked Stephanie.

“Don’t know, gods can be fickle, and usually self-centered. But I don’t know what rules drive them in the game.”

“They’re just going to give you a personal side quest with a big fat reward at the end,” said Hugh. “It’s supposed to add flavor to the game, and give you some sweet gear.”

“Which is why we should go there.” continued Neil. “Unless someone else has something they want to do first.”

“I need to learn some spells.” I said. Gizzard, the court wizard, promised me I could look at his library.”

“Not a bad idea. Don’t forget to get a grimoire.”

“A what?”

“A book you can record spells, potions, and other magical shit in. It’ll be useful to read when you have some down time. Think of it like a magical diary.”

“What will the rest of you be doing?”

“I think it’s time the rest of you got new clothes,” said Neil. I’m going to see if there’s anyone here who can do something about that.

“I’m going to get some practice with this thing.” Stephanie said, patting her sword. “Maybe someone here will show me some pointers.”

“I’ll join you,” said Lucas. “I want to get better with this bow too.”

“What should I do?” asked Hugh.

“Go shopping. Start gathering supplies for our trip. You can store them in your cloak, right?”

“I guess… but what about money?” 

“We can give you ours. Provided you can be trusted to do grocery shopping.”

“You can trust me, I was a boy scout. Scout’s honor and everything.” He winked at me.

We set off to do our individual tasks.  I made my way to the wizard’s tower, which stuck out like a crooked tooth. It was domed like an observatory, and indeed, I did see a large telescope, peeking at the invisible stars in the sky. To my dismay I would not see the inside of the tower. The door was only three feet tall, so even Gizzard had to stoop when I knocked. He politely offered me tea and apologized for having such a small home, but wizards rarely get much.

He brought two chairs and a table outside and brought out a pot of boiling tea, along with  two cups. Once our table was set I decided it was time to ask him a question that had been on my mind.

“Hey Gizzard. Are arcanists born?”

“Arcanists aren’t born. Arcanists are made.”

“So you mean….”

“An arcanist is someone who chooses to study magic in some capacity at some point in their life. They will spend years learning all sorts of arcana and hidden knowledge. I started myself as an apprentice to the previous court wizard.”

“What do you mean hidden knowledge?” 

“Magic the world is not yet ready for. Dangerous magic. It isn’t the fear of the magic itself, it’s what would happen if it was picked up by the wrong hands. In magic, nothing is forbidden, but there are those who use it to prey on the weak. And magic can be quite powerful.”

“So it’s a career path. Why don’t more people do it?”

“Learning magic takes time and patience, much like every other craft. Not everyone is so finely attuned to it. It’s a little like learning music. Speaking of which, are you ready for your first lesson?”

“Oh yes please.”

“Then stand with me. Now face the same direction I’m facing. If any spells go wrong, then they’ll go into a harmless area. Now posture yourself like so, feet apart, arms up, lower your shoulders some more, there you go! Wait for me to get out of the way… now move your wand up and down, and to the left, then the right. Now repeat.”

I felt like a conductor. I imagined music started playing. Then it actually did. I laughed. The music got louder.

“Keep going!” 

The music swelled, reached a crescendo, and faded away. At the crescendo, a burst of sparks shot out again, rejoiceful and triumphant. I turned to Gizzard, smiling.

“Very good,” he said. “For the most part, those are only pretty lights. Want to try something harder?”

“Of course!”

Gizzard returned to his home and returned with a few volumes. “This is my grimoire,” he said. “It contains every bit of magic learned over an arcanist’s lifetime.”

“I think I need one.”

“That would be wise. Which is why I’m giving you this blank one.” He handed a leatherbound journal to me. “You don’t ever need to worry about running out of pages, it’ll grow as it needs to.”

He opened his grimoire. “Now, you’re going to copy this down. It’s the wheel of elements. And here are the lists of different types of arcanists. Ready for your next spell? I want you to think of snow....”

 

 

 


Submitted: March 01, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Jon Nathaniel. All rights reserved.

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llywrch

I'm glad to see you're continuing with your story. I meant to comment on your last chapter, but I couldn't think of anything to say. So please don't let my silence discourage you: I am very interested in what you are doing here, & how your story will turn out.

Sun, March 13th, 2022 4:17am

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Thank you for keeping up with it! I'm glad you like it so far.

Tue, March 15th, 2022 10:20am

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