Chapter 1 Part 2
Frastil had told her that she possessed the answer within the runes engraved on her outstretched arms and and along the energy lines of her body. All she had to do was to find the right connection between them and this pitiful handful of new shapes.
Somewhere in the combination of runes engraved in her skin and the ones she held, lay her answer. She once again closed her eyes and let her spirit tickle the runes spread upon her palm. They all seemed to hum with the power touching them. So, they all had possibilities. This would take some time to sort through.
Aeriona swept her hand through the air in front of her in a gesture like unto that of wiping the rain from a window. A very fitting analogy too, for with a thought to nudge it in the right direction, the moisture froze in a highly polished film floating in the air. The impromptu mirror hovered right where her hand had brushed the air. It remained there as she admired the reflection it presented her.
The first was her symbol of air, the very first one she’d earned in her studies. The silverish lines of it seemed to waver across the top of her right cheek as a gentle breeze would ruffle the leaves of a mighty oak. It stood there as a symbol of her affinity to that element for all to see. But air without form could do very little. She would certainly need the air to do a great deal if she were to ever pass the master’s test he’d set for her.
His words rose unbidden in her memory. “You must hold two fingers on the orb for five minutes."
She reached through her spirit to pull up a bit of flux, and threaded it through her air rune. She almost lost the thread when another of the masters’ words from her first year, chided her for the way she mimed the moves with her hands. “It’s a mental exercise you daft girl! Just move the thread with your will, or should I send you to weave the tapestries instead?” Her thoughts laid the invisible thread along the edges of every rune engraved in her skin. The tip dangled free. Gripping it with her hand like a paint brush was unnecessary, but she could picture it better as she tickled the edge of the first rune cradled in her palm.
Immediately she felt the affinity between it and two of her own. A simple twist of the flux thread and she wrapped the three together. In her excitement at finding an answer so soon, her thoughts pulled up a sizable stream of flux, and let some of the power dive into the mixture. Almost instantly she realized her mistake as a glowing ball formed in front of her. She hadn’t looked to see which runes she’d mixed together with the new one.
The ball started crackling with power along its edges. A quick feel of the runes she’d used told her that she couldn’t simply just let it go. Slowing the magic power flowing into it to a mere trickle, she brought a couple more of her runes into use. This mixture gave the crackling ball a good shove across the chamber. She let go her hold on it when the ball had traveled halfway across the room.
The ball of lightning immediately let all the accumulated power out in a single flash. She felt the force pick her up and toss her like a rag doll. The thunder echoing in the chamber was all she heard as darkness swept over her thoughts.
When she woke the chamber was once again silent. All was the same except for the foot wide hole in the floor and the small bits of stone surrounding it. A glance upward showed the orb still holding its spot waiting for her to come touch it.
The runes were still clenched in her left hand that had instinctively closed when the lightning exploded. Gingerly she pulled out the rune that had been her fist try, popping it into her mouth to keep it safe and out of the way. That one had possibilities she dared not take the time to explore until this current task was well behind her.
The next rune in line looked a lot like one of her own that nestled behind and a bit below her left ear. That was one she used to help slow her falls. She needed to get up not down, this one would be useless. She passed over that one to look at the next rune in line. Its shape gave no clue to what it would do.
She focused her energies into it and felt of her own runes to find any that had a connection. It didn’t take very long before she felt it. With a mental twist she tied them and sent the energies through both of them. Instantly she had a clear picture as to its purpose, and knew that there would almost certainly never be a time it would be useful to her. All the breath left her body in whoosh that threatened to bring her insides with it. A trap! That had to be Heimer’s addition. He had a twisted outlook.
She released that spell weave and wove her watery-breath spell to bring air back to her screaming lungs. A second later she released that spell as well, since she wasn’t underwater. She struggled to steady her breathing again. This was a test that needed her full attention and her mind kept wandering on things that had nothing to do with where she currently was. She started her mental exercises again to steady her thoughts.
Aeriona was in the final stages of her third-masters test. Of course there would be traps waiting to snap at the careless wizard, or worse, the overconfident one. She knew that she bordered on the latter of those two.
Her feel for flux had become evident early, and her father had wasted no time in shipping her off to the tower. A pouch of gold, and several lies later she was admitted a full half year before the required tenth birthday. Her ability to touch the flux meant that she was in the upper ten percent that had a chance to become a mage; the rest went home within the first year, poorer and wiser.
Those rare few that had a touch of the blood in them, could feel the flux. Some more than others. Those few began the five year task of becoming a Journey Mage. Only a third survived to gain the talisman. Aeriona had done it in less than four. Here she stood, nine years after walking in that door.
A fifth year Journey Mage could find work in any town, which would keep him living comfortably. A tenth year Senior Journey Mage could find work with any city government, or in in the service of any ruler, living a pampered life. By the time a mage reached even the third-master level they could do whatever they wanted. They were the ones who were sought by kings, with promises of fabulous rewards. Her goal was higher yet.
A smile slowly crept across her lips as the solution formed in her thoughts. This rune woven with this, and this one would give her the boost she wanted. Sending the magical energies flowing through the combined runes brought a glassy looking bubble surrounding her. With another wave, gentle air currents nudged the bubble upward toward her prize. This wasn’t going to be as hard as…. Her bubble suddenly jerked sideways. Round and round the room it danced as random bursts of air hit it. None of them sent it anywhere near the orb she sought. She bit her lip to hold the string of expletives within. Frastil, the stodgy old carp. This had to be his little joke.
A quick flick of her right hand burst the bubble. At the same time she brought up the feather-falling runes to soften her landing. Aeriona was down to her last two rune choices. One, the falling rune, would be of no help. The other one she had pushed aside a few times already. Every time she’d tried to feel it, all it gave back was a sense of flatness. She needed up, not flat.
She should have known right away. It had kir’eff’s feel to it. If anyone could be said to be without humor, it would be that Elf. Aeriona sent the magic flowing through the combination of runes, wondering how the flatness was going to help. A nearly invisible shape came into being several inches off the floor. It was roughly rectangular and very flat. The oddest part was feeling the runes almost begging her to do it again. A second shape appeared several inches above and slightly to the side of the first. A third one popped up as she realized this was creating a stair leading upward. Part of the sixth year course was proving that you couldn’t have a free-floating platform of air, yet here it was.
It barely sank at all as she stepped on the first one. Stepping from the second to the third brought a fourth step into being as the first one faded into the air it was crafted from. Nearly up to the orb she felt the buffeting of air that had sent her bubble dancing around. Steadied as she was on the steps it merely played with the loose strands of her hair. Five minutes later she was standing in the outer chamber donning her dress.