Updated: Jun 11, 2020
By Aislyn Hall
The candle Tarian lit earlier in the afternoon had burned nearly to the base, hot wax dripping onto his desk. The numerous windows placed around the tower let in silvery moonlight. The humble mage raised his tired brow to see that he had stayed much longer than he had originally intended.
Tarian unfocused his eyes from his manuscripts and took in the scene he had created. A massive pile of tomes were stacked precariously on either side of the desk, pulled down from the shelves over the course of weeks. Candles long since burned out sat atop each of these piles, previously serving as illumination upon the papers and scrolls that littered the desk. Various trinkets, baubles, and measuring tools sat awkwardly in different positions, frequently stolen from their inanimate rest. The familiars had long since grown tired of watching over Tarian, and left to peruse the work of more exciting wizards.
The quarter was nearing its end, and he had yet to finish his formula. Of course, he was in no danger of losing his position as an Archmage at the Academy, but it was a matter of pride to him. He had not missed a single quarter in contributing to the vast library of knowledge at the Academy. Younger Archmages and council members whispered that Tarian was getting old—losing his touch.
But perhaps not. His contributions outweigh nearly any other sitting upon the council, and can match the rest. Without the flashy antics of his youth, the Academy seems to have forgotten what Tarian is capable of. It isn’t every day that disintegrating a man where he stands is necessary, especially given what recent studies have suggested regarding the Ley.
Regardless. The hour was late, and Tarian was tired. He would resume in the morning.
After a breakthrough, it always seems so simple in hindsight. What if modern theory of the Ley’s subterranean origins are mistaken? Recent studies suggest that the Lady and her will creates ever-changing nodes of Ley energy, particularly focused around Oathstones.
But what if there were instead a single source that spread magic across the realm? A powerful node that all conduits connect to and extract power from?
It could be possible. There are tales of great wizards and sorcerers unleashing magic beyond the comprehension of modern Calbria. There is little to substantiate the incredible feats spoken of in the Crescent Chronicles, even after numerous attempts to decipher where and how such power was acquired. But what if they understood how to wield the source itself instead of draining inconsequential nodes of temporary energy?
If that were the case… Tarian’s new spell was plausible! He would simply need a scroll kept hidden in the vault at the Academy to begin his fieldwork.
Oh, no. His memory was failing him. It was at a smaller vault in Ashenbury. A day’s trek away. He sighed. So be it, then.
The Archmage rose from his chair, bumping into one of the book piles behind him. He heard a soft purr. He looked behind him, startled. Ah, of course. Mittens was still present!
The cat rose to its paws, stretching out its back. It reached out to rub its face against his hand. Tarian instinctively put his hand out to allow the cat its daily quota. He smiled softly.
He could still contribute to the Academy’s already vast knowledge, and before the end of the quarter. But… it could always be done tomorrow. His body was telling him that he was tired for hours.
Tarian scooped up Mittens and let her out of the tower. After he put her down, she seemed unsure of what to do with herself. The creature eventually decided to sit and began licking its paw.
He shut the large, wooden door behind him and waved his hand. A lock made of wispy blue energy coalesced across the entrance, forming a massive lock that snapped shut with the shrieking sound of crunching metal.
With that, he descended down the seemingly endless flight of stairs and found his bedchamber, where he retired for the night.
Tarian woke at dawn, early in the morning. He had a routine, and his body would not stray from it, despite his lack of sufficient sleep. Besides, he had not been this excited about a discovery since he managed to perfect limited transmogrification of the human body!
After donning his austere robes and wizard hat, he took his oak staff in hand and swung his knapsack across his shoulder. He then set out to begin his journey. The Academy was still quiet at this hour, the sun no more than red mist on the horizon. It was chillingly cold. Tarian frowned, though his long, white beard and mustache helped warm his face.
As he dragged his feet through the halls, few faces passed him. Those that did nodded in acknowledgement of an Archmage. He did not know many individuals at the Academy anymore. Many of his friends were now gone from this world.
He walked down the stairs of the grand entrance to the Academy. The beautiful garden grounds expanded before him, hedges shaped by telekinesis and botany aided by other curious magics. Manabirds hummed from plant to plant, draining shayblooms of their sweet nectar.
As he was passing through the main gate into the city proper, a fellow Archmage was making her way to her office. She paused.
“Tarian, I am surprised to see you out of the Academy this early!” She exclaimed. Tarian sighed, nodding.
He prayed to the Lady she wouldn’t notice his presence.
“Do you have something on your back, Tarian?” She asked.
He grunted and continued walking.
The woman squinted her eyes, then looked back and pursed her lips.
Tarian continued walking. It seems like she simply went on her way.
He felt a sharp tug from behind.
He sighed again, turning to face her.
She slapped him across the face. Tarian blinked, taken aback.
“I see the scrolls packed in your knapsack, your staff in hand.” She scowled.
“You’re not going to the morning market. You’re going…” Her eyes lit up.
“You’re going on an adventure!” She squealed with girlish delight, despite her age.
Tarian blinked again. He had half expected her to drag him kicking and screaming back to the Academy, citing something along the lines of him being too old for this kind of tomfoolery.
Matie was one of the older members of the council as well. He knew her better than most all of the younger council members.
She put her hands on her hips. “Well, don’t just stand there. Let’s go!” She snapped her fingers. A knapsack of her own with scrolls and items materialized on her back. Matie always had an affinity for conjuration.
He could hardly recover from the shock. It had been quite a while since he had seen Matie out of the council meetings. They had drifted apart. He certainly didn’t expect this to be their next encounter.
“I did not explicitly invite you, Matie.” Tarian said plainly. His expression became neutral.
Matie raised an eyebrow. After Tarian said nothing, her eye twitched slightly. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. A sense of hurt was beginning to cross her eyes.
Tarian smiled wickedly, then began to laugh. Matie shot playful sparks of magic at him, and he shooed them away with his hand. She laughed as well, and they began walking together towards the Astirith gates.
“You simply cannot wear your robes out on a journey, Tarian. Isn’t it obvious?” She snapped her fingers again. Both her and Tarian’s garb turned to that of simple but well-kempt travellers. He chuckled.