Authors: V. St. Clair
“When you use a charm, you are taking whatever inert spells you put into it ahead of time and making them active. It is at that time that the charm pulls the magic from your Source directly, bypassing your magical Foci entirely. It gives you the advantage of being able to focus your mind on channeling other magic through your Foc
i while the charm works from your Source. You could potentially be using dozens of spells at one time instead of being limited to one, depending on how skillful you become at multitasking.”
en was immediately stricken by how advantageous that could be, especially if one found themself stuck in a field with a fully-grown dragon who was bent on eating them during the summer holiday…
“Of course, pulling magic directly from the Source takes a toll on a person, because the Source is the very core of our magical being, completely untamed and unrefined by any instrument or channel,” Master Dirqua continued softly. “F
or that reason, drawing from your Source will fatigue you much more rapidly than normal casting.”
Hayden raised an eyebrow at that, because he had never felt particularly tired after using magic, other than maybe that time in th
e lake last year when he first compounded his prisms to escape, but he had chalked it up to all the running and panicking—and almost-dying—not the magic itself.
“This is where disparities in latent power will become evident. Some mages are inherently more powerful than others because their Sources are much larger. A mage with a large Source will be able to use many charms in addition to their ordinary magic before they become too tired to continue, whereas someone with a smaller Source may tire after only a few simple casts.
“It also takes practice to make your Source more resilient to direct magic, like exercising a muscle to make it stronger,” Master Dirqua explained. “I expect we will discover over the course of the year if any of you have more latent power than your peers. In the beginning you’ll all be easily fatigued, and you shouldn’t let it discourage you. As you practice more you should begin to tire less easily.”
Hayden was already itching to try it out, imagining all the different charms he wanted to make and how they might help him during the challenge arenas this year.
Visions of boldly charging a pack of conjured monsters filled his head, and how pleased Tess would be with him when he defeated them all and earned their team a perfect ten. She definitely needed to smile more often, because it made her whole face brighten, and those little dimples at the corners of her mouth would come out…
Hayden snapped back into focus as Master Dirqua instructed them to open their books and begin reading chapter one, but the back of his mind was still teeming with different ways to use charms.
Speed and Endurance
Hayden had always known that the level-three Prisms class wouldn’t have many people in it, but he was nevertheless surprised to discover that he was one of five students this year. The other four were all mastery-level, three of which he had never spoken to in his life; the fourth was Oliver Trout.
The others all stared at him when he walked in and took
a seat among them in the front row, and Oliver frowned in displeasure. According to Zane, this would be Oliver’s third time taking the class in the hopes of graduating to the next level. Hayden was tempted to ask him how many more years he was going to hang around Mizzenwald now that he was at the mastery-level, in the hopes of improving his prism skills.
Master Asher was the last one into the room
, and shut the door behind him with a soft click, greeting them with a lazy wave of his hand before turning his back to them and feeding his familiars bits of bacon from his palm. Hayden was more than a little envious of how well-behaved the dragonling and hawk were while the Prism Master taught classes: they always remained quiet and watchful, occasionally eyeing Hayden from their perches. Even now, when they were eating bits of meat from Asher’s hand, they were much more dignified about it than Bonk usually managed.
“Welcome back,” Master Asher finally turned to acknowledge them properly, wiping his hands
irreverently on his metallic red robes. “I believe Hayden is the only new face this year, so the rest of you will already know what this class is about and what sort of things we’ll be working on.”
The others shot Hayden a quick glance until Master Asher continued speaking.
“I also feel compelled to point out that it is time to defend our school’s reputation once again in the I.S.C., and as the five of you are the highest-ranked prism-users at Mizzenwald, I’ll be determining which of you will act as the Prism on our school’s team.”
Hayden had extremely mixed feelings about the possibility of representing the school in a competition against the best the
Nine Lands could throw against him, but figured that he only had a twenty-percent chance of being chosen for it so he might be safe.
“Is Frost competing against us for a spot?” Hayden’s nearest neighbor asked without looking at him.
The Prism Master looked surprised at being asked.
“Of course he is, Kevin. You
are the five best prism-users Mizzenwald has at present, and if you want to earn your spot on the team in this subject, then you need to be demonstrably better than your four classmates.”
His words were followed by an uncomfortable silence, during which everyone seemed to be avoiding Hayden’s gaze except for Master Asher.
“There will be four major components to the assessment: speed, efficiency, endurance, and strength of will,” the Prism Master explained. “Each of these is vital to success, and I’ll be ranking you against each other in the different tests. At the end, the person with the highest overall ranking will represent Mizzenwald in the I.S.C.”
Hayden raised his hand nervously.
“What if we don’t want to do it?”
The others looked at him like he was insane. Master Asher simply frowned.
“It’s not really a volunteer activity.” The look in his eyes was almost pitying. “It’s part of the price of admission. If you want to reap the benefits of our first-rate education, you must be willing to do your part for the school when called upon. It is considered a high honor to be chosen, and to refuse would be…well, it might be the last thing you ever do at Mizzenwald.”
Hayden pursed his lips but nodded understanding.
“Right, so today we will be reviewing everything you should know by now about the prisms you’ll be using in the I.S.C. Those would be level-three clear, amber, blue, and rose-tinted glass.”
Hayden raised his hand again.
“Sir, I’ve only been cleared for level-one prisms in clear, amber, and blue.”
Master Asher nodded and said, “You’ve been upgraded as of today. The level-three
prisms are similar to the ones you’ve used, except for more powerful and with a few additional spells. You’ll need to read up on the rose-tinted to see what sorts of alignments you can expect and play around with it on your own. The assessment will begin this weekend, so you’ll all need to be prepared by then.”
The thought of only having
four days to attempt to master a brand new prism was a little daunting, but Hayden had never struggled with them before and hoped that his natural skill would carry him well enough to avoid embarrassing himself.
They spent the next hour reviewing major and minor alignments
, as promised. Hayden hadn’t forgotten a single one of them since the last term, but the others struggled at various points in the lesson. Master Asher dismissed them all five minutes early, and the other four left the room rubbing their eyes tiredly. Hayden packed his things and prepared to follow, but the Prism Master asked him to stay behind.
“You wanted to see me?” Hayden leaned against the edge of his desk.
“You didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the prospect of competing for the glory of your school,” Master Asher stated bluntly.
“I don’t know how I feel about it,” he admitted. “I’d be nervous g
oing up against all these sixth-and-seventh year students who have been studying magic a lot longer than me. I also don’t know that much about the Inter-School Championship, since I only heard about it yesterday.”
Master Asher frowned thoughtfully.
“I expect you’re going to do well in the assessment this weekend, which I always conduct at the beginning of the level-three class, regardless of whether it’s an I.S.C. year, because I need to know where your skills are before I know what to focus on teaching you.” He considered Hayden for a moment before continuing. “I wanted to warn you against doing anything stupid, like hedging your strengths or deliberately failing the assessment for that very reason.”
That thought hadn’t even occurred to Hayden yet, though he supposed it would have crossed his mind at some point before
“I won’t, sir.”
“Good,” Asher nodded. “If you happen to win a spot on the team—which you very well may—keep in mind that this can be a good thing for you. It will be an excellent learning opportunity, regardless of how you place in the competition. If you’re determined to become an accomplished mage, you need to seize every opportunity for broadening your skills that you can. Also, looking to the future, being able to say you were the Prism for Mizzenwald one year is an excellent selling point when you’ve graduated and are looking for work. Every achievement translates to more money for you, because you’re worth more.”
Hayden considered that for a long moment and nodded slowly.
“Most importantly, it gives you a rare chance to interact with other skilled mages across the Nine Lands, and you can use that opportunity to forge new friendships and contacts. You never know when they’ll come in handy.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Hayden admitted. “I guess I’ll just do my best this weekend and see what happens, and if I win then I’ll try not to embarrass the school during the competition.”
Master Asher smirked.
“I doubt you’ll embarrass us, and even if you do, we’ve recovered from worse,” he sighed and glanced at his
chrono. “It’s time for lunch,” he chivvied Hayden towards the door. “Don’t forget to pick up your new prisms today, and see me if you have any trouble using them.”
ed and followed Asher to the dining hall, his mind reeling with all the new things he’d learned today and how much work he had to do before the weekend.
And I’ve only been to half of my classes so far…
He had a feeling it was going to be a very busy year.
The rest of his lessons were relatively uneventful, which was a relief after the morning he had. He found that he was prepared enough for Wands that he didn’t get lost, and was about on the same level as the other level-three students, who were just beginning to study cedar-based wands. It was also the only class this year he had with Zane.
His roommates were unsurprised to learn that h
e was going to be competing in the rat race (to use Zane’s words) this weekend, because that was apparently when all of the assessments for the different majors took place. Hayden was less-than-thrilled to learn that the testing would be done outdoors, that it was common for other students to crowd around and watch, and that the running tallies would be posted in the main foyer for all to see.
“I think it’s to
see how you perform with an audience, since all the challenges at the different schools are done in front of lots of people,” Zane explained to him that night.
That prompted Ha
yden to stay up late every evening that week studying his new prisms. He immediately liked the level-three ones better than the level-ones he was used to, because he could sense their heightened abilities. Something about the light in them just seemed clearer and sharper.
The rose-tinted prism was the only one he didn’t have any prior experience with, and between skimming his textbook for chapters on the different alignments and examining the prism himself
, he was able to come up with a handful of useful spells before the weekend.
all the studying, he woke up nervous and queasy on the morning of Serin, squinting at the wall-mounted chrono and noting that it was very early out, too early for breakfast even. Convinced that he wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep under any circumstances, he got up and dressed quietly in the semi-darkness, summoning Bonk to his shoulder and slipping out of the dormitory.
The hallways were dimly lit
, but he didn’t encounter anyone else until he stepped out onto the front lawns to get some fresh air, hoping it would energize him. There were a handful of other students here, all mastery-level, killing time with their familiars or simply staring out at the pre-dawn sky. Oliver was sitting on a stone bench beneath an ornamental-pear tree, looking nervous and tired.
Apparently I’m not the only one who isn’t looking forward to
The lists of who would be competing for each major were posted in the foyer just yesterday, and Conner had pointed out that Oliver was signed up for both Prisms and Powders, t
he latter being his actual major of focus at Mizzenwald.
‘fetch’ with Bonk for a little while in the dewy grass, watching the sun peek over the horizon and aware of the increasing noise coming from the castle as everyone else woke up. Deciding that he needed to eat whether he was hungry or not, he called Bonk back to him and set off for the dining hall to get something mild to settle his stomach.
His roommates joined him when he was halfway through his toast and oat-paste, looking much more
cheerful than he felt.
“Don’t worry,” Zane greeted him
brightly, sensing his mood. “You’ll do fine out there; you’re a natural prism-user for crying out loud.”
“For some of the tests that won’t matter
,” Hayden pointed out. “The endurance assessment is meant to see how powerful our Source is and how long we can hold out for, and since I’ve got three-inch Focus-correctors between my Source and the world I start out at a disadvantage.”
“Unless your Source is just so awesome it doesn’t matter,” Conner chimed in. “Let’s face it, most people wouldn’t be able to cast a thing with that much correction on their Foci
, but you manage just fine, so you must have a crazy amount of natural power to start with.”
“Even if you suck at the endurance part
, you’ll probably kill on speed,” Tamon added, while struggling to keep his boa constrictor off of the table. “Everyone else will have to search for the right patterns of light and think before they can cast, but you just see them right away.”
“Strength-of-will could go either way though,” Hayden echoed the things he had been thinking about all week. “It’s a mixture of raw power and ability to connect to the world at large.”
“Yeah but on efficiency—”
Hayden didn’t hear what Zane had to say about efficiency because Tess had just walked past him and wished him luck.
“Thanks, I’ll need it,” Hayden discarded his last piece of toast by throwing it to Tamon’s boa constrictor.
, I’ll be rooting for you,” she said with her shy smile. “And Mira said she would be too, and really most of the people in our year are on your side as well.”
ided that he was finished eating, and the five of them walked back out to the front courtyard together. There were already students sitting on blankets in the damp grass, jockeying for good positions to watch from around the designated testing areas. The Wands trials were already in progress, and the five of them managed to find a spot with a decent view of the competition. Mira joined them soon after and sat down beside Tamon, making a face as her clothing got wet, because no one had thought to bring a blanket to sit on.