First chapter of a new story. New story, new character, completely different time period from my other story. I'm also going to try to keep this one a little closer to actual magistream lore.
Anyway, here we go.
The Final Exam
Aran took a deep breath, grateful for the familiar presence of his pegasus Aurora by his side. The magi arrayed before him in the clearing were all ones he knew-Belmos, who had been there when he had pulled Aurora from the stream, Thane, the most powerful archmage in the Keep, and his mentor Theo, who had taught him the mysteries of wind and earth magic.
But now his performance, and their decision, would seal his fate for the next year, and that next year would determine if he was fit to become a magi of the Keep-or simply an eternal student, a “fledge,” who would never be trusted with the harder tasks of administration and research that went to full magi.
He had to pass this exam. His direcore Leath, the newest fully grown creature he had, swished his long tail by Aran’s feet.
“Aran Smithson,” Thane began, and Aran took a shaky breath, hoping it wasn’t audible. “The preliminary portion of your final examination will take place now. Perform all of the spells we ask of you, and perform any the feats required of your two chosen creatures.”
“Yes Master.” His heart pounded, mingling with adrenalin borne of excitement. This was it. He had been training for this ever since entering the Keep.
“Perform a wind spell.” Easy. That had been the first spell he had ever cast. Aran focused, the air currents around him twirling into a dust devil that sent leaves fluttering around the clearing.
“Make it glow.” Aran took a breath. Light magic. Okay. He called upon the magic present in beams of light, stretching it into a filament and weaving it into his air spell, his temples tightening with the effort of concentrating. The twister shrank, but it became visible, a glowing whorl in the air in front of him.
“Good,” Master Belmos said. Aran released the magic, the light vanishing and the leaves settling to the ground. “Now pick up the same leaves you spun, and light them aflame.”
Aran blinked. Kelly had warned him about this. Magic residue…he had to find it on the leaves his spell had touched. Anxiety washed through him then; he wasn’t good at subtle techniques like that, and he was even worse at any magic involving fire. He barely resisted closing his eyes, a new student mistake, and sent out his senses.
It took him time, and he burned each leaf one by one-sloppy. But finally, the last leaf was reduced to ash. Victory rose in his stomach.
“Now reconstruct them,” Theo said. Aran’s stomach flipped, and he swallowed hard. Figures, that the hardest task would come from his old mentor.
“Okay.” Somehow, speaking aloud helped calm the anxiety that twisted in his gut. He reached for his air magic, sending the ashes whirling into a tornado. He added earth magic, and added a bit of light magic for good measure. When he touched the ashes with it, he imposed the form of the leaves upon them, holding the image in his mind. Swirling leaves. He wanted swirling leaves.
The ashes moved as though he painted a picture, leaves of black ash swirling in the tornado. He slowed it, just enough to hold them, and used earth magic to glue them.
Now the hard part. He reached for any life that remained in the leaves.
He swayed on his feet, Aurora steadying him and Leath kneeling by his legs. Tiny, infinitesimal bits of life he had missed with his fire…he pulled the heat away, amplifying the life, and the leaves began to turn green once again.
It took longer than it had to burn them, the sky growing darker overhead. One green leaf fluttered to the ground, released from the tornado. Surely that was enough? But Theo remained silent, and Aran pushed on.
Two leaves. Five leaves. Ten. Finally, every leaf was once again green, the signs of fire gone from the clearing. The sky was shot through with rays from the setting sun.
Aran released his magic, breathing hard, the beginnings of a magic fatigue headache building behind his eyes. His direcore stood up with a wag of his tail, licking Aran’s fingers.
“Good work, Aran,” Theo said, his eyes glowing with pride. “Rest your magic. It is your companion’s turn.”
Leath stepped forward, tail wagging faster, and looked up at Aran. Aurora remained where she was, far from the impulsive foal she once had been.
“Can you fly with your pegasus?” Thane asked. Aran nodded. He had been flying with her since he was twelve.
“I can vouch for that,” Theo said.
“Very well. What of your newest companion? Show me that he allows you to ride him.”
Aran nodded. “Leath, heel.” Leath froze, laying his wings flat, while Aran mounted. “Up!”
Aran grit his teeth as Leath leapt. Flying on a direcore was far different than flying on a pegasus-for one, direcores took to the air like a wolf would, a killing leap turned into a way to scale the sky.
And of course, they were fast. Leath’s wings sliced through the air as silent as an owl, quickly gaining speeds Aurora could never hope to accomplish. Wind whistled in Aran’s ears as Leath spiraled higher, circling over the heads of his exam committee.
Aran smiled. He had definitely passed.
Then a magic bolt shot up from the clearing, straight at him.
Aran reacted on instinct, throwing up a shield of air around him and Leath. His direcore growled viciously as the magic spread around them both, the bolt sizzling at the shield continuously, Aran’s already drained magic pushed to its breaking point.
“Down, Leath!” he called, and Leath dove, streaking like red and brown lightning. Aran held the shield, the magic bolt-like none he had seen before, one that wrapped him like a cocoon-burned at his shield like acid. He had to shrink the shield to hold it, but not if it would hurt Leath.
“Leath, let me go!” Leath pulled up from the dive mere feet from the ground. “Aurora!” Aran rolled off Leath’s back as the direcore took to the sky. The magic bolt stayed with Aran, and the young mage held the shield as his body hit the ground, buoyed by Aurora’s magic. He rolled in the pile of newly reconstructed leaves, and with a force of strength he didn’t know he had, shoved the shield outward, flinging the enemy magic in all directions.
He lay on the leaves, panting, the shadow of his pegasus covering him. For a moment, everything was silent, Leath’s shape circling above him.
“Stand up, Aran,” Thane said.
Aran stood, a hammer striking his temples with every beat of his heart. If he had to do something else…
“Congratulations. You have passed the preliminary exam,” Thane said with a smile.
“I…” Relief flooded through him, so powerful he felt nauseous. He wasn’t even fully aware of it when Leath landed, Aurora striding over sedately to stand by his side. His legs shook, and he nearly flopped down onto the ground, saved only by Aurora’s strong presence.
“Listen, Aran. You will now be given your yearlong assignment. Pass this, and you will become a full mage,” Theo said. Some of his old kindness from the years he had mentored Aran leaked into his voice.
Aran nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Only if he became a full mage could he even dream of becoming an archmage, like Thane. Archmages were rare, some of them even beginning castles of their own. That had been his goal since he had entered the Keep at the age of ten, seven years ago. Aran thought he could do it. He had to do it.
"Your final exam assignment will take place in Arkene.” Not so bad, not yet. He had never visited Arkene before, but with Aurora and Leath it would be easy to get there. “Your task will be to bond with an adult ice dragon.”
Aran nearly choked, blood draining from his face. Aurora sidestepped next to him, and Leath whined.
An ice dragon. He had to bond with an adult ice dragon.
He had never even seen one.
Comments/critiques always appreciated!
Before Aran can fulfill his dream of becoming a respected mage, he must pass his final exam and bond with an ice dragon. He sets out on his journey and gets along well enough in Arkene-until he meets a highly unusual person with an equally unusual creature.
It’s not just magi that can form magical bonds.
Check out The Final Exam
, my new MS story.