709. Eye of the Hurricane
A note from Lise Eclaire
Sadly, I’ll have or take a few days off from posting to attempt fixing my sleep schedule and reduce my stress. 🙁
Hopefully, I should be back to posting before the end of the week.
Meanwhile, here’s a little something by
to keep you entertained 🙂
Dallion didn’t have any lessons with Katka the following day or the day after. The woman would always come up with an implausible excuse. Even without that, though, Dallion felt drained trying to keep up with his remaining lessons. Just three disciplines were enough to exhaust all the available time he had in his realm and in the real world. Strictly speaking, there was no reason for him to push himself so hard, yet the more he learned, the more eager he was to leave the Academy as quickly as possible.
Learning over three hundred symbols, Dallion stopped learning them individually, but rather focused on learning spells that could be useful and only looking up the symbols he lacked. The new approach yielded instant results. Having a good mind trait allowed him to remember more than the average number of patterns without half trying.
What little time Dallion had outside of class, eating, or sleeping, he spent gathering magic so he could grant Nox his wish.
It was almost laughable how easy magic gathering felt after all this time. What had initially taken him hours now was done in seconds. What was more, Dallion didn’t have to constantly think about the speed of pulling, but had acquired a sense of it. In the worst-case scenario, he had to use combat splitting to find the sweet spot.
Once Dallion had managed to obtain enough magic to fill up all the artifacts the fury had given him, he ventured into his personal realm and got to work.
The first skill he granted Nox earned Dallion, the achievement Augmenter, plus another two points on his mind trait. Or rather, it would have earned him another two points if he hadn’t reached his eighty-level cap. The remaining point was still there, but wouldn’t be applied until Dallion passed his next gate. Still, that didn’t dissuade him from continuing.
The second skill Nox was given was
—the ability to create cracks while running. As Nil correctly pointed out, this was a skill only useful in the real world, but Dallion didn’t mind. The real skill he wanted for his minion to have was the one that needed Break Dash as a prerequisite.
Using all the remaining magic he had amassed, Dallion empowered the skill
. The skill seemed outright broken, allowing Nox to conceal his presence both in a realm and in the real world. What was more, in the real world, he could also conceal cracks, though that by no means mended the object. The war Dallion imagined it, he could hollow out a weapon, door, or even a piece of pavement and have it shatter when most convenient.
Dallion’s teachers had also noticed his improvement, giving him more complicated tasks. Palag even went so far as to procure a training “magic holder” artifact that Dallion could use to gather more magic to be used on training. The only downside was that Dallion’s usage of the artifact was carefully monitored and, other than filling it up with magic, he wasn’t allowed to use it for anything outside of official training. Thus, a lot of time and effort was wasted giving skills to a dummy metalin without getting anything in return.
On the third day after learning how to grant skills to echoes and familiars, Katka finally informed him via letter that she was resuming their training. Appropriately, Dallion decided it was a good idea not to push himself too much before that.
“You’re doing a bit better,” the woman said, observing how he was entangling the magic threads coming out of his fingers. “Looks like some rest was what you needed.”
There was no way she could be further from the truth. Even so, Dallion said nothing.
“How’s your echo training class going?”
“Not bad,” Dallion managed to say as sweat was trickling down his face. “Didn’t Palag tell you?”
“You assume I’d waste time with some no-name assistant,” the woman laughed. “And I know his name because Enroy told me.”
That sounded like a touchy topic, so Dallion chose to ignore it. Instead, he tried to extend the magic threads out of his fingers, resulting in him completely breaking his concentration. Magic threads splintered in all directions, bringing to an abrupt end of the attempt.
“I spoke too soon,” Katka frowned. “Rest a bit, then have one last go.”
“Thanks.” Dallion struggled not to collapse to the floor. “So, what’s with all the meetings lately? Is the way getting closer?”
Normally, he’d receive a quick and snarky response. The fact that he didn’t got him concerned.
“Closer than we’d like. There’s been enemy sightings half a day from the imperial capital. It was just a small force, but the fact that it got there at all means that the Archduke is finished. The imperial legions have pulled back in an attempt to block the gap, and the territory’s neighbors have re-allocated their forces. It’s a mess.”
There was nothing that could be said. Dallion felt a chill in the pit of his stomach. He had been led to believe that the empire was this omnipotent, ever-lasting entity in the world. Even now he still believed it, but there were clear signs it was not the case. Everywhere throughout the imperial territories nobles were propagating this subliminal message within their domains, but cracks were starting to form and when they got large enough to be noticed, chaos would follow.
“Where does that leave us?”
The question was unexpected, causing alarm and intrigue to emanate from Katka for a moment. She quickly subdued the emotions, crossing her arms.
“Otherworlders,” Dallion clarified. When it came to it, despite the major differences between him and the rest—and their attempts to kill him—he felt an inexplicable link to them. It was almost as if they were a family in some way. “Earthlings.”
“You’ve had enough rest. Get back to your exercises.”
The conversation ended there. Dallion’s concerns, though, didn’t. For ten minutes he tried focusing on extending his magic, yet his head wasn’t in it. All of a sudden, getting out of the Academy gained a much higher priority. If the war got to a stage at which the Academy had to get involved, Dallion would have no choice to become part of it… just like his grandfather had. That hadn’t ended up too well. The memory fragment of the former Dherma village chief had shown that Dallion’s grandfather had been rather skilled, and what was more—liked. Supposedly, his victories had helped him become a noble, though even that hadn’t been able to prevent his downfall.
“Help me undo my seal.” Dallion pulled back all his magic, ending the exercises. “I’ll owe you.”
“You already owe me. Besides, it’s not that simple. The seal isn’t a form of punishment. It’s a copy of the awakening gates. Any mage that doesn’t have the skill to get rid of it won’t make it outside. You’ve been a normie, you know what people say about mages. What do you think they’ll do when they find out there’s a mage that’s weak?”
“I have other ways of dealing with them.” Dallion smirked.
“You’re only talking about things that you could see. Magic puts you on the map. You were protected from all the creatures you couldn’t see. Now they can see you and they can’t be defeated with what you got.” She shrugged. “But hey, I won’t stop you. If you’re so desperate, you can always cut off your hand. Painful, but easily regrowable for someone with your talent and familiars. I can even tell you which books to check out for the spells.”
Nil shouted within Dallion’s realm.
The risk involved is a lot more than she knows.
Dallion had no intention of going so far, but the suggestion made him think. If there was one loophole to the seal, it was very likely there would be others. For the moment, he agreed that there was more to learn, yet if he didn’t manage to remove it on his own, soon, he might resort to more drastic means. It was proven that spark had an effect on magic. Maybe he could use it to burn through the seal, or failing that, he could use the Nox dagger?
“We’re done for today.” Katka made it clear both the training and their conversation were over.
“Only if you’re serious about it.”
, Dallion thought.
“I’ll be here. Thank you, mage Katka.” He bowed, then left the room.
You’re still revealing too much,
At times I think you’ve forgotten everything I—
How do I leave the building?
What? Why do you think I know a way? And even if I did, why would I share it with you? Having gained some favor won’t shield you from stupidity.
Nil, you know more than you claim, so cut the crap and tell me!
Dallion paused for a few moments to regain his composure.
Sorry. I just want to see what’s outside. I won’t run off. I don’t even really want to set foot outside. I just need to see what’s going on outside.
Are you sure? You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, dear boy.
Not seeing is the problem.
If you insist…
It turned out that there was a way. Following the novice corridor led to what could only be described as a service staircase. Decades ago, it was used by novices and apprentices to carry the mages their meals. With new buildings appearing, emerging on Academy ground, and the establishment of dedicated dining halls, the practice was gradually stopped, and the corridor used less and less.
A normal way to get rid of something unnecessary was to modify the realm of the building or bar it up in mundane fashion. Since this was a place of mages, though, a strong illusion spell was cast over the entrance, and nothing more. The spell was deemed powerful enough to prevent any novice from finding it, but as long as one knew where to look, there always was a way. Having an echo of someone who had been here while the staircase was active also helped.
Remember, you mustn’t destroy it,
Just cast the spell I showed you and pass through.
The spell in question was an anti-illusion spell, allowing Dallion to ignore illusions in the short term. It would have been quite useful back when he was facing the spectral shardfly in the fallen south. If he’d known magic back then, he might not have lost Gleam.
“Are you sure it’ll work?” Dallion asked as his fingers danced in the air, casting the spell. “It’s a bit simple.”
Novices must learn to do what’s difficult, not what’s useful. There are plenty of symbols that are more… shall we say, potent than the ones you know, while being easier to create. That’s why they are kept secret.
Dallion could see the logic. Telling children how to create the equivalent of rocket launchers wasn’t a terribly good idea.
The spell collapsed on itself, then extended all over Dallion’s hand and body, covering him with a purple mesh.
“I just walk through?” he asked.
Ignoring his instincts, Dallion took a step forward. The wall didn’t stop him in the least, letting him go through as if it were made of air. Even weirder, turning around, Dallion could see the archway as well as the corridor he had come from.
Single direction spells,
Nil grunted in disapproval.
A proper mage would have cast it on both sides, regardless of the circumstances. People sure have gotten lazy throughout the years.
“All part of human nature.” Dallion rushed up the staircase.
Each floor had a similar opening, and just as on the first floor, the illusion was only active for those in the corridor. After five floors, the staircase transformed into a narrow stairwell continuing upwards. Dallion could safely assume that was the final stretch leading to the roof. He still had to be careful not to be spotted by any flying mages outside—the White Eye, especially—but for all intents and purposes, he was a step away from his immediate goal.
What do you hope to find out, anyway?
“Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot.”
Trying to be cryptic doesn’t suit you, dear boy. It only makes you sound silly.
Just as Dallion was about to answer, he reached the top of the staircase. As Nil had described, there was a small dome with openings that provided a view to the outside world. One glance and Dallion half wished that he had taken the old echo’s advice.
The sight had nothing in common with what he had seen upon his arrival. This was no longer a cluster of buildings; it was a war zone. Giant magic spheres were everywhere, preventing millions of shardflies from flying amok. Less than a third of the original structures remained guarded by layers of protective runes and golem-like constructs. The scariest thing of all was that everyone in view was carrying on as if this was normal.
“Is that all covered by illusions?” Dalloin asked.
No illusions, it’s what it is. The shardfly issue seems to have been more widespread than everyone thought.
“And you find that normal?”
No, I don’t. However, everyone else seems to.
A note from Lise Eclaire
is available here:
Book 2 will be available end of the month (taken down from here in about 2 weeks)