He walked home slowly. There was little waiting for him there, save for a warm meal. The evening provided him with some time to relax, but little else. He spent most of that time reading a novel, borrowed from the library or Master Pelvacto’s personal collection. His mentor greatly approved of this, which seemed a little odd.
It was hard for him to imagine the sages that educated him to be interested in fiction. Telaios had never been one for fiction, he knew. There were no such books in his library. Yet Master Pelvacto seemed to consider it essential.
Why, Tharash could only guess. He did not analyse the books for valuable facts that could be hidden within. It was nothing but a way to spend some time on his own, undisturbed.
He opened the door and was greeted by scents from the cooking fire as usual. Suddenly feeling hungry, he closed the door behind him, let his bag slid off his shoulder and rushed to the kitchen. Master Pelvacto was waiting for him there, but had already started eating, which was unusual.
“Come, and eat quickly. We have a long evening ahead of us,” he told his student.
Tharash wondered what his mentor had planned, but his stomach told him to eat first and ask questions later. He quickly slid on an empty chair with a filled plate in front of it and started eating.
Asking questions proved unnecessary as Pelvacto started to elaborate. “I know it has taken a while, but you have been very patient. I have decided it is finally time to start, and there is no time to waste.”
Tharash looked up at him from his plate. He had no idea what his mentor was babbling about, but he had clearly been looking forward to this event. He stuffed another spoonful into his mouth, waiting for Pelvacto to continue.
Once his mentor realized Tharash hadn’t a clue what he was talking about, he gave his apprentice a confused look. “You really have stopped caring, have you? I’m talking about wizardry, Tharash.”
The student’s spoon hovered in front of his mouth, which remained wide open in total awe. Very slowly, the spoon slid from his paralysed fingers and fell into the thick soup, creating a green splash.
“Wizardry?” the one word he was able to get out of his mouth. The word he had been waiting for for a year now.
“Finish your soup. You’ll need it tonight,” Pelvacto told him, grinning widely.
Regaining control over his muscles, Tharash mirrored the wide grin and started to devour the soup with unrivalled speed.
“Don’t forget to chew,” Pelvacto said cheerfully as he watched his excited student.
Tharash nodded with a full mouth, but barely heeded the advice. The soup was gone in no time.
“Come,” Pelvacto told him, getting up from his chair and leaving the kitchen. Tharash eagerly followed as he led him through the hall to a door Tharash had never been through. As his master opened it, revealing a barely lit staircase, winding both up and down. Tharash remembered that they actually lived on the third level of the city.
He had never been below the third level, and had no idea what was at the second and first. Even the city gates were at the third level, though he didn’t know how that worked. Perhaps the lower levels were underground, or maybe in the valleys beneath the mountains the city was built on.
But down it was that Pelvacto led him, to the second level, where a heavy iron door barred the way. There was no handle and no lock that Tharash could see, but intricate patterns decorated it. Pelvacto traced his finger along one of the patterns and then slowly pushed the door open.
Uneasily, Tharash entered the pitch black room on the other side of the door. As Pelvacto entered, a small light flickered on. It started to expand along another intricate pattern, but this one filled the entire room instead of just the door.
Slowly, the entire room, which had a width almost equal to the tower, became lit. Along the edges of the circular room, Tharash saw all kinds of strange tools and equipment. The centre of the room was kept empty.
“Welcome to my laboratory. Not even the Magisters can claim to own a superior one,” Pelvacto proudly presented the room. He waited for Tharash to finish looking around until he continued: “We’re not going to use any of that today. We are going to start at the very beginning. So, what would that be?”
Tharash turned to Pelvacto when the question was posed. “The origin of wizardry?”
“That’s a long and interesting story that would take us back to the age of sorcery. While fascinating, it is a story for another time. Instead, we will start at the source. Now, just about everything a wizard does is a conversion of energy. What could be a source of energy?”
This was a question that belonged in one of Master Telaios’ introductory classes. Tharash started to sum up the different energy sources he could think of: “Fire is a source of heat. Snow or ice a source of cold. Flowing water, as well as wind, a source of movement. The sun, moon and stars are sources of light.”
“All correct. Each of these provide a certain type and amount of energy. Yet there is another important one. Why did you eat dinner?”
“Because I was hungry,” would have been the obvious answer. Tharash knew better than to go for the obvious answer. “I was hungry because I have been studying hard all day. I needed to replenish my body,” was the answer he gave. As he spoke, he realized the next step: “It was low on energy.”
“Exactly!” Pelvacto cheered. “The human body is very good at storing and converting energy into various forms. Heat and movement are the most natural forms, but not the only ones.”
Tharash nodded. “Master Pelu says that the mind controls the body through very small lightning strikes to the muscles.”
“Indeed, though we will focus on heat and movement for now, as these are the most easy forms to control.” Pelvacto explained as he walked over to a table and picked up a small ball. A moment later the ball burst into flame and he threw it to the centre of the room, where it splashed out in a fiery explosion.
Tharash looked on in awe. He knew exactly which power it was. After all, he had known the formula behind it for well over a year now. Knowing the effect and seeing it in action were two completely different things, though.
“Fire is by far the easiest form to create, as it is a form that has an eager nature. However, you need two components to create a fire,” Pelvacto told him.
“Heat and fuel,” Tharash muttered understanding.
“Heat is easily extracted from a wizard’s body. And while that body can also be used as fuel, I would not recommend self-immolation to anyone.”
Tharash chuckled. “That ball you just picked up was the fuel?”
“Excellent observation,” Pelvacto stretched his arm out at the centre of the room. A breeze erupted in the windowless room, blowing the Fireball’s ashes into a corner.
“Wind creates movement,” Tharash softly repeated himself.
“More advanced powers combine different forms, but the core of learning wizardry is learning to master the different forms. And before that, one needs to master his own body and its energy flows.”
Suddenly, a lot of Master Pelu’s more unusual exercises started to make sense: Meditation, odd balance tests and breathing exercises. Tharash had to admit to himself that he was not very good at them, though.
Pelvacto gave him a perceptive look. “This one of many approaches to learning magic. It is the favoured approach of the Academy, due to its safety to learn and control over the applied magic. However, the Academy has no say over a mentor’s education of his apprentice. If this approach does not suit you, we could try others.”
“Let’s go for safety and control,” Tharash said softly. He wasn’t really sure what his mentor meant when he talked about other approaches, but if throwing Fireballs was considered safe…
While he didn’t talk to many of his classmates, he certainly picked up parts of conversations. Learning wizardry apparently does not happen without burning your fingers once or twice. And he certainly did not enjoy the thought of losing control over that Fireball Pelvacto just showed.
Pelvacto nodded approvingly. “Now let’s see if you can make some fire by yourself.”
Tharash sat down cross-legged and pressed his palms together, exactly as during Master Pelvacto’s exercises. He closed his eyes took a deep breath and let the air flow through his body. He could feel his heart beating and fuelled his inner fire.
Opening his eyes again, he looked up at his mentor. “How do I bring it out?”
Tharo grinned and revealed a pair of flintstones in his palm. “You forgot that every fire needs a spark as well. And so does a wizard,” he beckoned Tharash over to a table filled with pots, jars and tools. “Wizardry is a craft. As a master smith would forge a blade that the novice could not even imagine, so the true wizard is an inventor, creating that which others could not even perceive in the realm of possibilities.”
Tharash looked over all the tools and substances displayed in front of him. The possibilities were overwhelming. “What should I make?”
“Wrong question,” Tharo told him. “What can you make?”
“Just about anything,” he answered. Everything he had ever seen in Master Telaios’ classes was here. “If I’d go up and get my books…”
Tharo shook his head. “If all you can do is cook by recipe, you will never be a real wizard. Have you no imagination?”
Tharash’s gaze shifted uncertainly from Tharo to the table and back until his gaze fell on a seemingly empty jar. “What’s this?” he asked as he picked it up.”
“Nothing,” Tharo replied with a smirk.
Tharash tried to open the lid, but it wouldn’t come off. He looked up at his mentor with a questioning look.
“There is nothing in there,” Tharo stressed.
“You can’t have nothing in a jar. There must always be something, even if it’s just air. Otherwise it doesn’t exist.”
“An absence of something is not real? If I leave this room, do I cease to exist? Does this room?”
“No, you’d be elsewhere and…,” Tharash paused to retrace his line of thought. “You pulled the air out?”
Tharo took the jar from his apprentice and held it in the light. “This jar contains emptiness, the void between the stars. Curiously, even nothingness exists, for it pulls the lid down like a magnet. It has trapped itself and refuses to be released.”
“I bet I can release it,” Tharash said with a playful grin as he pulled a hammer from the table.
Tharo sighed disapprovingly. “Some wizard you are, rather destroying the work of others than building your own. Why don’t I train you as a warlock instead?”
“You can’t do that!” Tharash cried out.
“No, I wouldn’t want my prize pupil executed for treason,” Tharo grinned. “Come, we’ve spent enough time in the gloom here. Tomorrow you can tell me what you’d like to make.”
As they left, Pelvacto turned off the lights and sealed the door behind them. Together, they headed back up. Tharash found that it was later than he expected; he did not have time to read before going to bed. As he lay down, he found himself unable to close his eyes, thoughts spinning wildly through his mind.
He went to the window and stared up at the starry sky. Looking up for hours, clouds passed by and he watched the moon set behind the city’s spires. “I want to fly,” he muttered to himself.