Fan fiction:The Mage Academy of Gea Kul/Chapter Two
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I first witnessed a miracle from her hands on just her fifth day at the Academy. As I said, new students were seldom seen out of their quarters during their first months, except at mealtimes, when they could be seen scurrying towards the kitchen, dazed or panicked expressions on their faces. Zia was different, for in addition to her insatiable reading, she desired to see actual magic performed, and was bold enough to seek it out.
I was leading a class on elemental fire enchantments class that fifth morning, filling in for a Maester who had fallen ill. As I carefully explained the physical motions, ritual incantations, and mental state required to call forth flame from a dry patch of sand, I became aware that Zia was standing in the rear of the class, her shimmering blue eyes somehow brighter and more insistent of my attention than the eyes of the two dozen third rank students filling the front rows of the large hall.
I'd instructed nearly every course in the Academy, I'd demonstrated magery before kings and sultans, and I'd cast spells to save my life in battle, conjuring frantically with my very soul hanging in the balance. Yet I'd seldom felt as self conscious as I did once I noticed Zia's presence. I managed not to botch the spell or the lesson, I was too accomplished for that, but as the students paired off and arranged themselves around the large stone room, wands in hand and piles of sand under foot, Zia tiptoed out from the shadows, meeting me near the rear entrance, now bolted shut as a form of protection against the powerful magics being unleashed in this classroom.
"If I correctly understood your fascinating lesson, Archmaester Yun, the key is to know the elemental nature of flame, and to call it forth. Almost like summoning a trained animal. The flame is not any bear. The flame is one particular bear. With a unique name you must find in your own mind, that will forever link you to the flame. Yes?"
I'd never heard it described in such a fashion, and the directness of her words almost startled me, but after a moment's thought I realized that yes, she had cut straight to the heart of the matter. And with far more precision than any other student in the class could have mustered. Calling forth flame, and maintaining it without any substance for kindling, was one of the more difficult tests of pure magery, but at that moment I found myself foolishly sure that Zia was up to it.
Stirred, I made the first of my many mistakes with that girl. I decided to challenge her.
"Take this wand. Concentrate on that sand. And call forth your bear."
I handed her the simple wooden wand I used for instruction, turned her by the shoulders to face the patch of sand I'd used for my own demonstration a moment before, and waited. As the seconds passed, I realized that I was too close. My hands were hovering, almost trembling, above her delicate shoulders, and my hip was nearly touching hers. I was too close for propriety, and certainly too close to a very raw mage, one I was pushing to cast a spell she had no business attempting for another three or four years.
In fact, I belatedly realized that I hadn't even given her a spell. Fire magery is learned in stages, with the aid of cheats and trickery. Students first learn simple feits, ways to create sparks, ways to charm wood to burn more quickly than natural, that sort of thing. Actually calling forth the essence of flame, without working up to it via baby steps, was unheard of. Yet just as I realized my mistake, and opened my mouth to correct it, Zia thrust the wand forward, her face tight with concentration as she cried out a single word.
"Ursalia!" she shouted, and with that came a roar of flame, as a single white geyser roared forth from the sand, crackling in the air so loudly that every eye was drawn to Zia's enchantment.
"Impossible!" hissed the stunned voice of a male student, a young man in his sixth year at the Academy. I might have echoed that sentiment, but my attention was entirely on Zia, rather than the remarkable flame she was nurturing. Her jaw was jutting forward, her teeth were clenched, and yet her beauty was undiminished. When she spoke, after several seconds of maintaining the flame, she moved only her lips, keeping her eyes focused on the elemental eruption her iron will was maintaining control over.
"Archmaester Yun." She said, her voice calm and strong. I did not reply at once, my attention too occupied by her remarkable magery. After a short pause, she continued. "I have called forth my bear, and her power is great. How do I dispel her?"
I almost laughed, embarrassment and amazement warring within me. A moment later my emotions turned to puzzlement, and then to fear, as I more carefully examined the enchantment Zia held before her. She had not created a flame, and nurtured it with her spellcraft. She had unleashed the essence of fire, the elemental might that surrounds us at all times. Simply touching that level of magery was the work of a lifetime, and this slip of a girl had done it without the slightest idea what she was doing. More than that, she'd found some way to harness the flame within a protective shield.
It was a good thing she had. This was not a magical demonstration; this was the edge of an apocalypse. If her control slipped, the fire would not fail, since she was not causing it to burn. She was restraining the elemental force, like a damn holding back the ocean. If Zia's control failed, the flames would erupt, filling this room, and perhaps the entire Academy, with flaming destruction. This should not have been possible. I could not have done what this girl had done. No more than a handful of living mages could have, and I was not sure any would have dared attempt it, save while standing on an island in the center of the ocean, with the salvation of deep blue water at their heels.
I let none of those thoughts taint my voice, which I forced to remain calm and soothing. "Speak to it again, Zia. Think of the essence of the flame, as you did before you called it forth. Push it away. Push it back into the elemental plane from which it came. Order it by name."
Despite my tone, which must have sounded like the voice a man uses to calm a startled horse, I was awash with anxiety. If Zia lost control, I did not think I could dispel the elemental might the girl had loosed. Not without enchanted armor and weaponry to enhance my powers, and perhaps not even then. I was not frightened, but I was definitely anxious. Zia was neither. She was never afraid, not then, and not at any other time I knew her. If I was trying to calm anyone's fear, it was my own.
She followed my instructions, of course. She always followed them, even to her eventual doom, and in just seconds the fire began to fade before the might of her soft voice and the wooden wand I'd so cavilerly handed to her. The flame did not decrease in heat or intensity; and even when the fire was no taller than one of the first green sprouts of spring, it continued to burn with a white heat sufficient to melt through stone. Zia did not diminishing its power, since no one could do that. She simply forced it back into the elemental ether, pushing it down until it winked out and left the room in what seemed, for a moment, like darkness.
Shaking her hands and shrugging her shoulders, Zia whirled towards me, excitement gleaming on her face. "That was wonderful, Archmaester Yun! I'd never before felt such power! Might I attend your class again next week? I'm doing as much reading as I can, but I've worked through most of the first year books already, and all that endless theory and memorization is so dreary. I want to learn true magery. I want to understand the manipulation of elemental forces! Not just slight of hand tricks to fool peasants and princes!"
Flabbergasted, I could only nod and take back my wand when she held it out to me. If I'd been honest, I could have told her that she had nothing else to learn from this class. That she'd demonstrated a mastery quite beyond what I expected of any of the third levels I was teaching, all of them fifth and sixth year students. But I couldn't say that, not to a brand new student, and besides, I very much wanted to see more of her. More of her amazing natural talent for magery, I told myself at the time, but in retrospect, I must drop that pretense. I wanted to see more of Zia, whether or not she was holding a wand in her small hand. I certainly did all I could to see more of her as she gave a little hop to get going, then fairly danced out of class, her narrow hips swaying beneath her robe in most enticing fashion. At that moment, I decided that I would give Maester Dolcient as much time as she needed to recover her health and return to instructing this class.
Looking around the classroom at the paltry efforts of the older students, I caught a few of them flicking glances towards me, and remembered myself. I moved at once, strolling around the room, inspecting their progress and offering suggestions as needed. While I instructed them, I tried to gauge the mood of the students. I was fairly sure none were advanced enough to sense the true force of Zia's magery, and in fact, I rather hoped they had not. All rumors spread wildly in the Academy, and I could only imagine the wild stories that would spring up if word got around that a novice, eighteen years old, virtually untrained, was capable of working a sorcery that could have destroyed this room, the palace that housed the Academy, and perhaps consumed all of Gea Kul as well.
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