An apprentice wizard struggles with his craft, and the solution will have its price.
|Warm-up piece. Inspired by a digital painting by Taylor Payton.
Shin greedily drank from his waterskin, his pale hands losing any color they had as he strained moisture out of the leather pouch. All around him, other robed figures surveyed cave paintings, dusty vases, and anything else of interest within the excavation site the Arcanea had sent them to. Before the young man could manage to get another swallow in, a dark hand flicked his shoulder. The Liunesian instinctively stopped drinking, and looked into the amused eyes of his teacher.
"I apologize for my lack of grace, master Okan. Even after months here, I am unused to the Udonan Desert." Shin said to the bald man at his side.
Okan's smile grew wider, and he waved his hand dismissively. From that same hand, the older mage produced a glyph in the air. It read "Heat ward.".
"But I...no, I have failed before, but that won't stop me from trying."
Another glyph came from Okan's hand. "Confidence.".
Shin nodded, and took a deep breath. The Liunesian stretched his arms, and began to weave them in slow arcs. His breathing soon quickened, and faint blue energy came in sputters around his gray robes. After a minute of focus, Shin gasped and fell to his knees.
"Damnit. Damnit. I felt closer, but..."
Okan tugged Shin to his feet, and waved a finger. Shin took a deep breath, and gave his teacher a faint smile.
"I'll try again later, master. I'll...get back to recording the content of the paintings for now, in the shade of the caves."
Before Shin could turn around, Okan waved his finger again, and conjured another glyph. "Find Roka".
"I've not met her yet - but why? Did she ask for me?"
Okan shook his head left to right, and conjured a couple more glyphs. "She teach".
Shin looked at his teacher with a mixture of confusion and sadness.
"But master, you're the Arch Mage's Nephew! What could she show me that you cannot?"
Okan laughed, but no sound came. He led the younger mage by the shoulder up a small hill, and pointed towards a large, twisting structure carved out of the canyon rock. A brown-robed woman walked from around the structure, intently sketching its form onto a notepad. Shin squinted, but his eyes widened a second later.
"Master, she...I've seen blonde Udonans, but...what happened to her eyes?"
Okan grinned, and held up another pair of glyphs.
The Udonan replaced his glyphs with two more.
Shin glanced between his master and the peculiar woman, but ultimately nodded to Okan. The young mage walked towards the blonde, and she lifted her gaze up from her sketchbook. As Shin was mesmerized by wispy forms in the woman's glass eyes, the wizardess spoke.
"Was there something you needed, Apprentice?"
"Ah, you're Artificer Roka, right? I'm Shin, Master Okan tasked me to seek your guidance."
"I see - I take it you have difficulty maintaining long-duration spells?"
Shin perked up in surprise.
"I'm not the first Okan has sent to you, am I?"
"Perceptive! About every tenth Apprentice under Okan's wing has difficulty with focus spells. Show me instead of telling me - how well can you cast a firebolt?"
Shin hesitated, but faced an empty part of the canyon and stretched out his hand. Energy gathered before the Liunesian's palm, and he released the arcane forces after they had reached the size of his head. The ball of flame slammed into a boulder, melting layers and tipping the heavy stone onto its side. Roka lightly clapped, and addressed Shin again.
"You have potential, Apprentice. It is clear what must be done - like myself and many before you, you must be taken down the path of the Artificer. I...will have its price."
Roka's glass eyes gleamed, and Shin felt a wave of trepidation.
"Excuse me, Artificer...but I will become like you, won't I?"
A small smile played across Roka's lips.
"Don't worry - not too much, at least. It doesn't have to be your eyes that you give up, Shin. Follow me."