“Reil. I want you to give this your all, understood?” Ars withdrew another large syringe for Reil and administered the medicine. Reil nodded in acknowledgement. “You heard me describe the exam already, and I know you will do well. You are an exceptional student. But on orders of the Commander, you must not tell Alden how you did on this exam. I’m sure you’re tired of all the secrecy, but it is beyond your control. When you see Mr. Vitters next, you will explain to him you were able to keep the crystal glowing for a solid minute. He’ll believe you and congratulate you, as that is a truly top mark for this exam. And that is all you will tell him. Are we understood, Reil?”
“Yes sir, Master Ars,” Reil held back his frustration with yet another secret he had to keep, yet another lie he had to tell his friend, and steeled his face. His curiosity towards the exam was far greater than his discontent however, and Reil quickly lost focus on anything except the purple crystal in front of him.
“Remember, start with Soul. The changes will be swift, you must be swifter.”
Reil felt a chill through his whole body, and could hear a faint chanting in the back of his mind. Ever so soft and comforting, words from ancient times with no meaning to anyone alive, every one of his muscles contracting at once. To cast with Magic was an experience like nothing else, yet it had its limits. Casting too often without breaks was said to cause extreme nausea, headaches, and general unease. Reil himself had only ever felt the pleasure.
In an instant, the crystal bolted upright and rose a few inches into the air above the hands of the Master Trainer. A glow poured out and fought back the dim shadows of the room. Ars closed his eyes to protect them from the blinding light. The crystal began to spin at impossible speeds and winds swept around the outskirts of the room, whipping up papers and books.
Almost as soon as it had started, it was over. The crystal exploded in the air, sending pieces cutting through the air before disintegrating into a purple dust. The room darkened back to its previous level of light and the winds died. Master Ars slowly opened his eyes and surveyed the surroundings, scooping up a pinch of the dust that had been the crystal only seconds before.
Falling to a kneeling position, Reil felt the chill of casting leave his body, to be replaced by a hint of soreness in his muscles and the beginnings of a mild headache. He was not sure what had happened, only that he obeyed Master Ars and put more Soul into his cast than he had put in all his lessons the whole week.
The Master Trainer looked speechless, but only for a moment. He quickly gathered his wits and moved to the front door to the training room, locking it. His eyes glowed as he cast and he moved papers and books that had been strewn across the room back into neat stacks along the back wall. He looked at Reil with an expression the young man had never seen from the trainer before; fear.
“Are you ok, Reil? Do you feel weak?” Ars moved to grab another injection from the first aid kit along the wall.
“No no, I’m fine. I don’t need an injection. In fact I could keep casting right now,” to demonstrate his point, Reil sent the pinwheel on the other side of the room spinning at a dazzling pace.
Ars seemed to not believe Reil, reaching forward and taking his pulse on his wrist. “Your heart rate,” the man scratched his neck, muscles rippling with every motion. “Well, it’s fine. Like you went for a light jog, maybe.”
“Did I… Um,” Reil didn’t know how much those crystals cost and wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to his own question. “Did I fail the exam? I really am sorry for breaking the crystal, I just did as you told me to.”
The Master Trainer looked at him with a blank expression for a moment, before bending over with a hand on his stomach and then throwing his head back in a howl of laughter. “Fail? Fail!” The laughter was contagious and Reil found himself huffing a few giggles. “Fail? No no no, you most certainly did not fail. You just did what no one else has ever done before. Reil, you passed the exam in a way we didn’t think possible.”
Reil remained in shock of what had happened during his exam, and he could tell Ars was still shaken up as well. Am I truly that powerful? Is this why I have to keep everything so secret? Reil was beginning to piece together that the casting he performed to get he and Cent onto the Everlight was far, far stronger than any other Wizard’s first cast.
While he and the Master Trainer worked together to clean up the room from the explosion and put papers back in their correct order, a surprise visitor got the two men to jump up and salute. Commander Et’Hon Roshen strode into the room and nodded at Reil and Ars, allowing them to lower the salute.
“I see Reil has proved his strength yet again,” Roshen cast a chair of air and sat back on what appeared to be nothing, as if he was floating. “I always monitor this room with a special mixture of Aspects I came up with awhile back, it lets me know when the Magic used in this room exceeds a certain limit. Never has the monitor alerted me of anything, until just a few moments ago.”
Wringing his hands behind his back, Reil worried what it might mean that he was able to alert even Roshen with his powers. With a war such as the one currently raging across the systems in progress, it was easy to see why an empire would want such a powerful Wizard among their ranks, as well as why they’d like to keep that Wizard a secret. Reil was not sure he wanted to be used as a weapon.
“You have a Soul Limit right now, at the beginning of your journey into Magic, greater than the Limit I posses. Greater than the Soul Limit of a Master Wizard who has undergone hundreds of years of training and teaching at the Wizard’s Guild of the Olitheren System. You have read about Soul Limits by now, correct Reil?” The Commander’s cool face gave away no emotions, if not simple amusement.
“Yes sir, Commander. It is the amount of Soul a Wizard can cast without rest and without aid of injections or casting-armor,” Reil recited the knowledge he had read his second night of studying under Master Ars. More Soul than Commander Roshen? That can’t be possible. Reil had to fight the urge to let his jaw hit the floor.
“Reil, I do not wish to put too much on your plate at once, especially not after all that happened in Feldrin.” The Commander played with a ball of fire in his hands, making it dance in wondrous shapes. Abruptly the flames cut out, “but I simply cannot sit idly by and train you at the standard pace. It is clear you are able to learn far faster than most, and I fear I must push you to whatever limit it is that you may have. Normally I’d love nothing more than to send you off to the most prestigious Wizard’s Guild in the Galaxy and have you brought up with the greatest minds of our Cycle, but there is a war going on Reil. A war that threatens to end all life, and you might just be the key to turning the tides.
“Though Al’Mathria is strong and fighting back GavFed armies each day, there is no doubt that the Federation is currently winning this war. We need someone with powers nobody has ever seen before, someone to lead our soldiers on the field of battle and give them hope. Reil… you can be that person. But I need you to be on board with this.”
Reil shivered as he felt the air around him grow cold, almost as if it was hardening and ice crystals were pressed against his skin. All sounds other than Roshen’s voice sounded muted and the lights seemed to dim further. “Will you accept our training, Reil? Will you help me end this war?”
Ignoring the Magic radiating from Roshen, Reil took a deep sigh, blowing out his fears and anxieties into the cold air and pushed his chest out. “I do not want to be a weapon for Al’Mathria, or for anyone, Commander. But as a dear friend once told me, ‘sometimes the most humane thing to do in a conflict is to end it swiftly.’ And I believe the War is one of those things that must come to an end sooner rather than later. I will accept accelerated training, and I will fight for Al’Mathria, but I do require one condition. When he is healed, Cent will be trained as an officer and will fight by my side in any and all conflicts we are called to endure.”
Noticing the slightly surprised look from Roshen, and the obviously surprised look from Master Ars, Reil realized he had involuntarily been casting when he spoke, amplifying his voice and allowing his eyes to glow brightly in the dim training room. How did I do that?
“It will be done, Reil. That is all we have to talk about tonight, I must convene with my colleagues, including Master Ars now. Please, go to your quarters and rest, take the night off and enjoy yourself. We will discuss your new training plan tomorrow at six, in my chambers. I will have breakfast ready when you arrive, no need to go to the mess hall.” The Commander had a smile now, but his gaze was not on Reil. He looked off, his eyes focused on something that was not there. Et’Hon Roshen was handed the ultimate weapon, and his gaze was fixed on the future.