Authors: V. St. Clair
Isenfall isn’t too far behind us though,” Conner interjected. “Remember four years ago when they almost completely unseated us by the third round?”
Hayden, who knew nothing of his friends’ reminiscences, was watching them sile
ntly, his stomach settling uneasily as he considered the big picture as it related to him.
“So you all think that Miz
zenwald would pick me as their Prism?” he interrupted Zane’s strictures against Isenfall without apology.
His friends looked surprised to see him there.
“Well sure, why not?” Tamon answered with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve got to be the best prism-user in the school right now beside Asher himself.”
“I’m only thirteen though…I’ve only had one full year of school so far.”
Zane snorted. “You think that matters to the Masters? They want to win, because we’ve got a reputation to uphold. I’d be stunned if they sent someone else in your place.”
“Even knowing whose son I am?” Hayden countered softly, and the others frowned.
“I’m not sure whether that will sway them or not.” Conner touched his chin thoughtfully. “The Masters seem to be used to you by now, and they obviously think you’re alright, or they wouldn’t have gone all the way to Kargath to make sure you got to stay. The other schools might all gawk at you, but you’re probably used to being stared at by now.”
Hayden thought ruefully.
’t we have to try out though?” he asked, not keen on going head-to-head against the most powerful seventh-year Prism majors the other eight lands could muster when he was so new to the magical world. “Oliver might still beat me; he’s got more powerful prisms than me, and he’s bound to know more spells.”
d his eyes. “Stop being modest, it’s obnoxious.” He sat down beside Felix the fox and began stroking its soft red fur as he spoke. “You started your first year of school in the third-year challenge arenas, and you got the highest individual score of anyone after our finals were averaged in.”
“Only because they gave me an eleven for not doing anything,” Hayden pointed out.
“Oh sure, compounding your prisms and blowing up that lake in our first arena had nothing to do with it. Neither did single-handedly fighting your way through a maze, or blasting us out of that volcano, or refusing to leave Tess behind in a hole, or battling a fully-grown, man-eating dragon and winning, or any of that other stuff.” Zane’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. “You probably only got first place in the rankings because you’re Master Sark’s favorite student.”
Conner and Tamon both laughed at that, because it was widely known that Master Sark hated Hayden more than anyone else in Mizzenwald.
“It all sounds good when you say it like that, but most of it was just me blundering around in a panic. I almost never knew what I was doing or how it was going to end up; I just got lucky when it mattered,” Hayden grumbled.
“Well, a bit more good luck an
d the championship is ours!” Zane grinned at him.
Hayden decided to let it go and get ready for bed. He tried to coax Bonk back to his new perch for a few minutes, but the dragon stubbornly resisted all attempts to get him out of Hayden’s bunk bed. Sighing, Hayden climbed in beside his familiar and rolled over so he faced the wall, trying to block out the sounds of his roommates low-voiced discussions about classes tomorrow as they got ready for bed. As he drifted off to sleep
, Hayden took comfort from the fact that despite what his friends thought, the Masters probably weren’t crazy enough to volunteer him for the Inter-School Championship over much older and more qualified students. If there was one thing Hayden absolutely didn’t need any more of, it was fame.
It was hard to wake up so early for classes after having the better part of two months to his leisure, and if not for the noise of his roommates thumping around the room, Hayden might have overslept.
e it to breakfast in time to find seats together, though Hayden saw the momentary frown on Tamon’s face when Mira settled down amidst a cluster of girls further down the table.
Hazarding into unfamiliar territory, Hayden mustered up the nerve to say, “Why don’t you just tell her you like her?”
Tamon looked at him like he was the dumbest thing to ever crawl out of the sea. Neither Conner nor Zane needed to ask who “she” was.
“Don’t be ridi
culous,” Tamon said with an eye-roll, “You never tell a girl that you like her; it makes you look like an idiot.”
Hayden could see the logic in that, and let the subject drop.
“What’s your first class?” Zane turned to him, withdrawing his own schedule from his book bag. “I’ve got Conjury right off the bat.”
“Charms for me,” Hayden replied. It was his only new subject this year and his first real interaction with Master Dirqua.
Hayden spent the remainder of breakfast listening to his friends speculate over who would qualify for the Inter-School Championship team in each of the majors, much to his chagrin. He was almost relieved when the bell rang to signal the end of breakfast and the beginning of classes.
The Charms classroom was on the second floor in the east end of the castle,
just past the library and not terribly far from the place he had Wands last year. Hayden shouldered his book bag and took the stairs two at a time, eager to be on time for his first class of the year with a new instructor. He felt a mild pang of regret for not letting Bonk come with him, but he was determined to make a good impression, and his familiar could be quite a nuisance when the mood struck him.
He got there early enough that there were still plenty of vacant seats to choose from, intending to strategically select one in the second or third row so that he wouldn’t be in the very front or the very back of the room. The only problem was that the desks weren’t lined up in concentric semicircles like all his othe
r classes, but were instead arranged into a single large circle around the center of the room so they would all be equidistant from the teacher.
Realizing it didn’t matter where he sat, Hayden claime
d the first empty seat he happened upon and settled in. When the bell rang he saw that there were only about twenty people in this class, which he supposed made sense since most people chose their minor arcana based on their major.
Master Dirqua materialized into the center of the circle quite abruptly, his metallic green robes sweeping down to the floor around his feet. Hayden’s first impression was that this was the most average-looking person he had ever laid eyes on. Middling height and weight, not thin but not particularly bulky, his bland features offset by close-cropped blond hair and a light tan. If not for the vivid green Master
y robes, Hayden might not have even noticed him enter the room.
The one interesting thing about him
, at a glance, was the number of charms that were dangling around his neck. Hayden tried to do a rough count as Master Dirqua looked around at them all and began taking attendance, but he lost track at ten when the Charms Master turned away from him.
“Good morning, and welcome to
Introductory Charms.” His eyes scanned the attendance roster in front of him as he spoke. “I see that almost all of you are Wands majors, which is to be expected, since Charms has always been considered a complement to Wands.” He looked up and his eyes happened to rest upon Hayden. “Of course, Prism majors also tend to find Charms worth pursuing.”
Some of Hayden’s classmates looked at him, but Master Dirqua had already moved on.
“Of course, I must also point out that just because you are good at Wands or Prisms, it does not guarantee that you will be accomplished at Charms. I estimate that nearly half of you will drop this class at the end of the year in pursuit of something more suited to your talents.”
On that dark note
, he smiled. “So then, let’s get to it. For those of you who don’t know, charms can be thought of simply as storage containers for magic.” He removed one of the necklaces from the tangle around his neck and held it up so they could see the charm on the end of it. “Therefore, it stands to reason that a charm cannot be any more powerful than the mage who uses it.”
Hayden copied that down in his notes
, but then paused to think about it. Hesitantly, he raised his hand.
Master Dirqua called on him immediately, not looking bothered by the interruption.
“Does that mean that charms just sort of hold power until we need it? They don’t do anything new?”
The Charms Master smirked at him.
hey enable the user to cast more difficult magic than he or she might be able to on their own, as you will see later. But yes, their basic purpose is to act as storage vessels or conduits.”
He held up the necklace he’d extracted once more, and Hayden saw a wooden carving of a shield at the end of it wi
th a red stain on the back.
“This is a fairly straightforward defensive charm.” Master Dirqua moved slowly around the circle so that they would all get a chance to look at it. “I chose a shield for my emblem since it’s a good representation of defense, and you can see that I’ve bound it with blood.”
Hayden suddenly recognized the dark red stain on the wood and frowned thoughtfully. He was glad to see that he wasn’t the only one in the room who was surprised by the discovery.
“All charms require three basic things to make them work: an emblem, a spell, and a binder.”
Hayden wrote down those three things and underlined them, recognizing that this was probably a key bit of knowledge he’d need to memorize for the future.
“The emblem is simply the shape you choose to
assign your charm, and can be almost anything.” Master Dirqua moved back to the center of the circle. “In this case I chose a shield, but I could have just as easily made it a carving of a badger, if I’d been so inclined.”
There were a few chuckles at this.
“However, there is a general convention for choosing an emblem, which I will share with you now. First, it is common to pick a shape that resembles the magic you intend for it, because it tends to amplify the power of the charm. The more closely your charm resembles the magic inside of it, the more power you will be able to channel through it. There’s an entire art form to choosing an emblem, which you will begin to appreciate as this class progresses.”
Master Dirqua paused long enough to let them take no
tes before continuing, “Second, it is common to choose a shape that resembles the magic inside of it, for the simple purpose of not getting confused during a fight and using the wrong charm.” He grimaced momentarily. “There is always someone who adores making their emblems as obscure as possible, with the goal of not letting anyone else know what kind of magic he’s carrying around with him at any given time. That’s all well and good, but I’ve seen mages lose limbs over using the wrong charm, because they got ‘milk jug’ and ‘dog’ confused on their necklaces.”
Hayden immediately decided that he would not be playing any cute tricks with his emblems, the memory of his classmates in Conjury losing their hands the year before surfacing unpleasantly in his mind.
“Once you’ve got your emblem all picked out, the next thing you do is infuse the charm with a spell—or a series of spells, depending on what you’re trying to do,” Master Dirqua continued. “That is one of the advantages of charms over typical magic; they can hold multiple spells of varying complexities, to be used at the mage’s will.”
Hayden was already beginning to understand how it was
subtly different than the major arcana.
“The other benefit to using charms is that they do not disappear like the other magic
al instruments that you use. I have had this same defensive charm for five years now, and as you can see, it is unchanged.” He held it up again for emphasis.
Hayden’s hand shot into the air before he could think twice about it. Master Dirqua smiled as he called on him
, as though expecting the question he was about to ask.
“But sir, doesn’t that violat
e the Law of Equivalence?”
The Charms Master pointed at Hayden like he was giving him points for asking the question.
“A very astute observation, Hayden, and no, in fact, it does not violate Equivalence.” The look he gave Hayden was mildly intrigued. “Knowing that, what else can you deduce?”
Hayden had no idea if the question was directed at him specifically or at the room in general, but since Master Dirqua was watching him
, he went ahead and answered.
“Then it must be taking something from
in order to cast those spells…even if it’s only a storage container for magic.”
“Correct,” Dirqua pointed to him again. “Nothing is free in the world of magic, always remember that.”
“But then…” a girl on the opposite side of the circle from Hayden spoke up, “what do charms consume, if not the charm itself?”
“Energy,” Master Dirqua answered simply. “The charm itself is a simple vessel that is holding inactive spells. The third thing a charm requires in order to work is a b
inder, if you recall—something to link the charm to the mage who wishes to use it.” He paused to let that sink in. “The binder can be any number of things, but must come directly from the mage: hair, skin—not a popular choice, blood, and so forth. Some binders are more powerful than others, but we’ll get to that later.