"The usage of magic is what we define as sorcery," Kerdifplaron said after a time. She must have been determined not to be dissuaded, as she had avoided directly responding to Vikashar's last remark. "With Dash 'mee' liahla at least, an individual can use his or her body as a means of conducting and channeling the magic."

"And the magic enters the body how--?"

"Through the mind. 'Pure magic' is Dash 'mee' liahla in its natural form. It is invisible, and can only be detected by the finest of instruments. It is harmless, and useless for any natural purposes. The only way that 'pure magic' may have some function for the beings of the De'eash is if they use their minds to take the magic, and if they further convert the magic into a more applicable form. Doing this requires an extreme amount of focus. You must call to the magic, the energy, which is all around you. Magic is in the air, in the water, in the land, and, more than anything else, it is in the light of Rusili Bya and the stars."

Vikashar leaned forward, ears twitching uncontrollably. "What about in artificial sources of energy, such as eletrical outlets?"

Kerdifplaron shrugged. "There is some magic in every such thing. Magic is all throughout the world. The key to receiving the magic into your body is focus. If you focus intently, if you call to the power, then it comes to you. It is your duty to transform the force and magnify it."

Vikashar chuckled. "You make it sound so simplistic, my sweet sister, but I am certain that it is not so easy as you propose, or else every fool in the Wilds would be changing the world. So, before this lesson continues, I must ask of you: what is the catch?"

"It is not a catch, in my opinion. I think the better word would be a cost. Everything costs, Vikashar."

"That's only what poor people say. Nothing costs me, given that Mother buys everything that I want."

"That is not what I meant. I meant that achieving goals always comes with a cost, as does success. If you wish to master something, then you spend much of your time doing that, and that costs you time. It also possibly costs you talent in other areas, because you become so specialized. You're a good example of this, brother. What are your talents, besides being able to speak so many languages?" The light of the fire made it seem as though Kerdifplaron was smirking faintly.

"My talents mostly lie in being more than capable of arguing better than you can, so do not seek to pick a feud with me again, sister."

She was unfazed. "I was not picking a feud with you, brother. I was making a point about how you must always sacrifice something in order to attain something else. No action is without a cost. The difficulty lies in selecting which costs you are willing to suffer. Now, since you have asked about the costs for using magic, and why many do not employ it, I shall tell you. As it happens, learning to train your mind in such a way so that it can conjure magic is not an easy task. It requires months of practice, at the least. For some individuals, it requires years of studying, and there are some people who never manage to pick the talent up and grow frustrated with their inability to do so. Magic is not for everyone, especially not for those who do not have time, nor for those who are without means, nor for those who are impatient, such as most in the Wilds. You, I think, are the latter of these."

"I am not impatient! Wishing to have power in a reasonable amount of time is not at all impatient!" He stomped his foot on her rug. "You're saying that I have to wait for years until I can use magic, and I don't consider that to be patient; I consider that to be ludicrous. I'm being perfectly fucking patient by expecting a decent limit to the amount of time that it takes for me to learn sorcery."

"There is another way, but it too has a cost."

Vikashar opened his mouth, but Kerdifplaron saw this and instantly cut him off with,

"I'll show you at the end of this lesson. First, I want to give some more information to you. Now, listen. Magic has a varied nature, as you know. It may be curative, harmful, or it may come as a neutral effect spell. Because it is composed of energy, magic may transmute matter or take the appearance of some natural occurrence, such as fire. Fire magic is not actually fire, but magic manifesting itself as fire."

"Oh ye gods, I don't give a fuck!" Vikashar clenched his hands, making fists as best he could, despite the presence of his long fingernails. "I don't care. I shit upon this knowledge. Shut up, would you? Just shut up!"

"Vikashar, if you don't calm down, then I am going to box your ears. With ears such as ours, you can only imagine what that feels like. Mine were given some rough treatment by certain servants here, and I can assure you that this feels none too pleasant."

"I am a patient boy, and I do observe my manners, generally speaking. However, I am growing quite tired of you wasting my time."

"No, you see, Vikashar, that's not how this is." Kerdifplaron stepped forward in a motion that looked almost angry--except, of course, that Kerdifplaron never grew angry. She only grew indignant, and Vikashar had only ever seen that when her power had been somehow challenged. "If anyone is wasting anyone's time here, then it is you. You are wasting my time with your incessant urge to rebel against everything that I tell you, nevermind that you specifically came to me and asked me to teach you. That being said, you shut up, or I'll send you from my room so quickly that there will be blazes in your wake. I'm beyond exhausted. I am mentally stressed out. I am in an ill mood. I've no time for your nonsense. Do you wish to learn, or not?"

"I do, but--"

"Then be quiet."

Vikashar obeyed, but he thought that Kerdifplaron was more than slightly overreacting. Obviously, she could not handle criticism very well, if she was going to be like that about it. Vikashar decided that his sister clearly had a problem when it came to tolerating people arguing her opinion, which he found to be very unfortunate for her. Her social interactions would certainly be handicapped by her inability to be patient with people. Vikashar stood there calmly, watching and nibbling his lips. The thin skin was somewhat broken by the coldness of the day, and by a number of hours without the crisp refreshment of water. Watching Kerdifplaron now, Vikashar had to wonder how could she lose her temper so easily, for a seemingly and supposed composed woman. He supposed her demeanor was merely a front.

"On with the lesson, now. There are many kinds of magic, and more are constantly being invented. Some types that I shall tell you about are curative magic, elemental magic, beam magic, also called concentrated magic, disaster or high level magic, binding and sealing magic, transformation magic, summoning magic, dark magic, light magic, and common magic, which is magic being put to everyday use."

"I'll take them all, thank you."

Kerdifplaron's eyes seemed to disapprove of something. "Most mages are not fond of common magic, because it is seen as wasteful. Using magic for the purpose of elevating spoons into the air, for instance, is seen as showy but hollow pomp. Common magic is also said to encourage indolence."

"How judgmental of you. People can use whatever spells they want." Vikashar dug his toes into the rug.

"They can, yes, and I can think them foolish for doing so. What did I tell you earlier about trying to start conflicts with me, Vikashar? I won't hear it, though I do take responsibility for my half of this problem in the sense that I probably should not have put forth a caustic opinion. For whatever reason, you seem to seize upon those, though I find this to be queer of you, given that you've no shortage of vitriol yourself. Well, whatever. Anyone who actually learns magic can eventually use common magic readily enough, though it hardly makes mages of them. As to the other forms of magic, they require significantly more physical and mental effort. To use magic, one must be honed in both mind and body. It puts a considerable strain on both aspects of the self."

Even as Vikashar felt a deepening frown, Kerdifplaron smiled. "Here are the things which you need to know first and foremost. Firstly, if a spell seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is. I've been trying to tell you this for the duration of the day, or so it seems, but I still don't think that you believe me. Well, this is the last time that I am giving you this information, so remember it. Nothing is without a price. Many novices to magic go in and make a terrible mistake, the worst mistake that a person in their position can make. Many people learn a powerful spell, then immediately believe that they can use said spell to blast apart anything that they so desire."

"Well, why can't they? Is this another matter of you being judgmental?" Vikashar sighed loudly.

"Vikashar, why don't you actually listen to the context of my words, for once? I was just commenting on how nothing is without a price. It stands to reason that my following remarks probably also dealt with the aforementioned issue. Anyway, don't reach for lofty goals too quickly. It's silly. Moderation is the most important factor to success. Knowing your limits is important, as well."

"I'm not following. You seem to have randomly changed subjects somewhere in this conversation, and I apparently either lost your words, or I stopped listening because you were getting boring and I didn't care to hear what you had to say. Either way, please kindly tell me what in the fuck you're talking about now."

"I'm talking about hurting yourself through overexertion. You would not live a sedentary lifestyle, then go outside and run for hours. Likewise, it makes no sense to use spells that are beyond your current experience level. You want power, but you need to remember that you have limits. The magic does not necessarily have limits, but you do. I do, as well. Everyone does. You are a shell of flesh and blood. Too much energy can tear matter apart."

"Lovely." Vikashar smiled, feeling the warmth of the fire upon his face. First, he had been in Thalazzy's firelit cabin. Now, he was within Kerdifplaron's bedroom, and a very similar fire was burning. The winter could cause people to produce loveliness, at the least, though Vikashar missed Rusili Bya in the sky.

"I am not certain if these can be verified or not, but I have heard many tales of people whose hearts stopped because they used spells which were too great for them. The strain that this put upon their hearts proved to be too much, causing death."

"Only heart failure? And here I was hoping for something more outlandish and exciting, such as, you know, imploding in a mess of blood and writhing muscles."

"I've heard of that, too, but I'd rather not frighten you, little brother."

Vikashar growled. "Oh, yes, I'm oh-so-terrified of shadows, you know, being the terrified young lad that I am. Be quiet about that."

Kerdifplaron shrugged slightly. She looked almost bored. "I myself have never seen such instances, but it does not mean that they do not happen. The stories are so common that I don't see how they can be altogether untrue. You must have caution, Vikashar. It never does to overestimate your capacity for withstanding anything. Minimize risks by keeping things simplistic until you are certain that you can handle the more complex spells. This is a matter of moving along slowly."

"I've no interest in moving along slowly. Now, what was this business about teaching me a spell tonight? You keep giving me so much rudimentary information, yet I cannot perform any spells unless you teach them to me, so, please, put this shit aside and teach me a spell already. I've heard all the preliminary nonsense that I can stand. You're putting a strain on my heart with your constant blather."

Because he was tired of standing, Vikashar promptly lowered himself onto Kerdifplaron's rug and rolled over, propping himself up by his elbow. He gazed intently into the fire.

"Have it as you like it, Vikashar. I am tired of battling against your will. I swear, you are the most stubborn person that I have ever met, and I have traveled the world. I have given you enough information, I suppose. It is your choice to heed my warnings or not. If you opt not to do so, then it is not my fault, so do not blame me if something goes terribly wrong. Get off of my rug, please."

Vikashar arose slowly. "So, what exactly are you going to do?" He brushed his pants with the back of his hands, sending dust particles flying. "You still have not really told me anything about this other method of teaching spells to me, and I am still insanely curious."

"It was devised by Saela," Kerdifplaron said simply. Again, she reached over and began to stir some liquid. Vikashar's nose twitched as he sniffed the air. It was still heavy with incense, but the exact nature of the fragrances was beginning to shift, apparently due to Kerdifplaron's stirring. "Potions are used which stimulate certain dreams. A trigger word is whispered into the ears of the dreamer. Subconsciously, the keyword is associated with the potion-induced stimulus. In the waking world, remember the word that I shall give you. Call it out. This will release the latent spell."

"That does sound so very lovely, sister, but I seem to recall you saying that things which appear to be too good to be true often are too good to be true. So, come on, what's the 'cost' of this wonderful little technique of yours?"

"Not mine. Saela's." Kerdifplaron did not turn.

"Oh, what the hell ever. What am I losing by learning magic through this oh-so-easy route? Shall my head turn around backwards? Shall I be forced to cluck like a chicken instead of speaking with a tongue? Shall I get fat? I do rather hope it's not the latter of these. I like being slender, you know."

"I've a mind to beat you for your sarcasm sometimes, brother." Kerdifplaron paused, then added, "I am not a woman who advocates violence upon those who are not strong enough to fight back, but, you know, were I such a woman, then I would pound you into the ground. I would pound you into a purple smear, in fact."

"I guess it's fortunate that you're not such a woman, then." Vikashar chuckled. He also turned and spat into her fireplace, but that was mostly because she was not looking, and because he had been having an urge to do that for some time, and really, his self-control was leaving him.

Kerdifplaron turned. Vikashar was surprised at how cold her eyes were. He really wondered what her problem was, sometimes. "The cost is that you shall gain none of the experience that comes with learning a spell in the proper fashion. You also shall not have such a long time to adapt to using magic. The cost, then, is that the spell shall be much harder upon your body. In fact, Vikashar, I'll be frank with you. It shall be extremely hard. It could even kill a person. I don't think that it will kill you, or else I wouldn't advise using this method. We are made of sturdier stuff than are the humans. Yet, you shall still suffer, to some degree. To what degree, I am not certain, but such is the price of haste and eagerness. You shall have your magic, and quickly, but you shall also have pain that would not have otherwise come from learning patiently. Most people learn slowly, so that their bodies build up a level of tolerance for magic. You'll have no such tolerance."

"Oh, fine, whatever. Stop reiterating the point. I understand already. Magic. Now. Also, fie upon you, sister. I can handle any amount of pain without flinching. I am no sickly lad, despite Alchemaestrius's lies. I like the idea of learning in my sleep. Being lazy and learning at the same time works for me." Vikashar's blue eye twinkled, as a number of emotions filled his mind.

Kerdifplaron swiftly put out the fire, thereby permitting only the candles to give light to the room. "I wish for you to make some promises, Vikashar."

"Yes?" Vikashar could not entirely keep a sulky note from his voice.

"Please promise that you will not immediately use the spell that I give you. I suggest that you spend several months training yourself physically. Snooks or Thalazzy or someone of that ilk could probably help you in readying your body for spells." She paused, regarding Vikashar with an expression of concern. "Each day, I would advise working on yourself, so that the magic does not come as a shock to your system. Because of the method that I am using to teach you this spell, the magic will be something of a shock for you, no matter what you do, but I want you to promise me that you shall train physically and mentally so that you may lessen this strain as much as possible. I'll not be around to assist you, brother. I am likely returning to Netera tomorrow, and I don't know when I'll be back. Promise me that you will do as I've asked of you, Vikashar."

"I promise."

Because he remembered that Kerdifplaron had some mind reading abilities, albeit limited ones, Vikashar tried to put as much sincerity into the thought as was possible, given that he was lying and given that he knew that he was lying.

"Do you? Or are you simply lying to me so that I shall be hushed?"

"Sister, I cannot believe that you have so little trust for me. It wounds me, truly. I am a boy of virtues, yet my own sister, blood of my blood, distrusts me."

"I am sorry that I must be so skeptical, brother, but I am the blood of your blood, and I know you better than most, and I know something of your arrogance and how you seem to think that you are invincible. Really, it is a shortcoming of most who have your years."

"Oh, deftly done, sister. First, you insult me. Then, you insult all who are of an age with me. You'll not endear very many people with your bad attitude, you know. You should learn to be charming, like myself."

"Was your promise a truthful one?"

"Of course it was! Stop questioning me! I am an honest boy. You know, to be so distrusting, perhaps you have something in your nature that makes you inclined toward dishonesty. You know, untrustworthy people are the most prone to distrusting others, because they find it so inconceivable that others could be as they themselves are not. Is that you, sister? Are you a liar?"

"Vikashar, you are sorely tempting me to fling you from my bedroom." She raised a hand, pressing her thumb against her forefinger in a pinching gesture. "One rub, Vikashar. One stroke, and you're out of here. One snap, and you go flying out of those doors, and they shall be slammed behind you. Do you want to test me?"

"Oh, no, of course not. I don't know why your temper is so deplorable. And here I thought you were a calm, placid woman. You're certainly doing a fine job of altering my opinion of you, as it stands tonight."

"I am a calm woman. I am not losing my temper. I am simply telling you that I shall be rid of you, lest you stop slinging such ridiculous accusations in my direction. I do consider myself to be a patient woman, Vikashar, but you are seriously scraping my nerves with your teeth, figuratively speaking."

"That was an interesting metaphor. I could make a better one, though."

"Vikashar. You trained with Thalazzy earlier, did you not? Did you give him such grief?"

"Well, no, but I wanted to have sex with him. As I have no such desires toward you, I am inclined to be more honest with you. You see, sweet sister," Vikashar grinned his largest grin yet, and his teeth gleamed in the candlelight. "you should consider yourself very fortunate. When I want to have sex with someone, then I always lie and manipulate them so that they will be with me, but you're my sister, so I don't pretend to be nicer than I truly am when within your presence. I'm just my true self. That's another reason why you should trust me, you know. If I were being dishonest, I wouldn't have even told you all of that."

"How fortunate I am, that you don't pretend to be nice when within my vicinity. You just flaunt your obnoxious qualities. I am honoured."

"Sarcasm does not become you, sister. You do not wear it well. I do. But I'll behave, and I was being honest earlier. I promise to do all that you have asked of me. You shall become quite impressed with me someday, sister. Just watch and you'll see."

"Perhaps." Kerdifplaron raised an eyebrow. Then, she waved a hand, as if dismissing Vikashar's words. The gold bands upon her arms jingled loudly as they clanked together. Vikashar was surprised to see how animated Kerdifplaron seemed to be. She was typically not a woman whose body displayed many of her emotions, primarily because she typically did not seem to have that many emotions to display. Vikashar thought that this was likely a ruse, though. She was a reserved woman, of course, but she certainly must have had a lot of buried feelings. Sometimes, he had thought that this was not the case. Often, he had believed that Kerdifplaron was simply unfeeling. Presently, he was beginning to believe that she was simply talented at masking the truth.

Vikashar brushed several fallen strands of hair back across his red eye. As he did so, he watched Kerdifplaron walk over to where the table was. She began flipping through the spellbook that she had earlier placed there. At once, she pressed a finger against one of the open pages. "What spell do you wish for, Vikashar?" She looked at him through narrowed eyes. "For some reason, I am thinking that you would be suited to fire."

"Yes, fire. It's beautiful. It's powerful. The concept of burning things alive appeals to me. What's not to love? Fire it is!"

"Fire makes for popular spells. People are fascinated by fire, and always have been. I'm going to teach you a level two spell. A level two spell will make the matter more difficult for you, Vikashar, but I know that you would be unhappy if you had to begin with level one magic. A level one fire spell is very minor. You could light a bonfire with it, I suppose, or a candle, but a spell of that level would not exactly be condusive to your particular desires. Now, Vikashar, you had better not harm anyone from Shnoll Alnai-ta with this magic. Are you listening to me? Most within this valley could take you down, firstly, but secondly, I'm not going to have Mother become upset with me because I taught you this spell, causing you to use it upon one of our siblings."

Vikashar rolled his eyes at the notion. "Do try to relax, sister. As tempting as it would be to set Mi'Ony or Yu-Yew ablaze, I should think that you'd realize that I am far better behaved than to do such a thing. I like pleasing Mother more than anyone, you know. I'd not have her think badly of me, although bothering Mi'Ony would be oh-so-fun. How long do you think it would take that slimy serpent to douse a flame? Probably not very long, mind you, as he is occupying the pool, currently, but it would still be quite funny to watch him hiss and swear and spit! I can't say he wouldn't deserve it, either. He has been tormenting me for years."

"At the right intensity, a level two spell could possibly be harmful, or even deadly, but I'm not going to give you the tools necessary to enhance the magic to its deadliest intensity. Frankly, I simply don't trust you that much. What you do outside of Shnoll Alnai-ta is not my concern."

"You're giving me your leave to kill whomever I wish, then? How sweet of you." Vikashar chortled.

"At your own risk, yes. Don't go around picking fights, though. That won't do." Kerdifplaron lit another candle. This one was swollen and bulging with wax. "If anything, I might suggest trying your hand at a hunt. That would be a good outlet for magic such as this. Ask an adult to go with you, though."

"Fine, Mother. Thank you for your misplaced concern. What the hell are you doing now, by the way?"

"I'm preparing the environment which you are going to learn the spell in, obviously."

"I thought you said that learning this spell involved the usage of a potion. Where is the potion?"

"I'm getting to that, Vikashar. I was stirring the base mixture earlier." Kerdifplaron walked back and forth, stirring liquids and sprinkling powders and doing other things which Vikashar generally could not see. He liked that she at least looked busy, though. That probably meant that something was about to happen, and that the night would conclude soon, something that Vikashar wholly approved of.

Soon enough, Vikashar saw steam. That was followed by the flicker of lavender lights, and then sparks of lavender fire filled the vicinity, sputtering and whirring and popping upwards in loud arrays before falling to the ground and dying.

"Remember what I said about energy, though," Kerdifplaron began, though Vikashar could scarcely hear her over the sound of the crackling substance. "Each person has an inborn capacity for magic and a certain amount of energy within their own body, but this only goes so far. To cast spells, you generally need to draw energy from an outside source. I might have mentioned this to you earlier. I can't recall. I am tired. Anyway, I would suggest using Rusili Bya, if possible."

"Rusili Bya shall not resurface for months yet!" Vikashar yelled, ensuring that his sister heard him.

"I realize this, brother. I am not stupid. Use Ansana's energy during that time. Try to work your spells outside. Spells work best upon the open ground, where energy can be drawn from the planet. If you must cast spells within a building, then I would suggest trying to draw energy from electrical outlets or something like that. It might work, but really, Ansana's energy is best. It's very pure. Go lie down."

Vikashar felt his brow furrow. "What are you talking about?"

The fires were beginning to calm. Kerdifplaron turned, giving her attention to Vikashar as she abandoned her various incense sticks, candles, and steaming potions. "You heard me. Go lie down. For this spell to work, you are going to have to ingest my creation." Kerdifplaron pointed toward the thick veil of fabric curtains on the far, shadowed side of the room. "My bed is beyond those curtains. You may sleep there, for tonight."

"And you? Are you going to my bedroom, then?"

"I shan't sleep. I need to build up my resistence, anyway."

"I seem to recall that a lack of sleep does just the opposite of that."

"I did not mean my resistence to growing ill. I meant that I need to build up my physical tolerance. If I can fight in wars, then I can handle a sleepless night. I must be as prepared as possible, physically." Kerdifplaron lightly placed her hands upon her hips, and Vikashar knew that she was going to be stubborn about the idea, so he did not argue with her further.

"As you wish," he said simply. He walked forward, stepping toward the back of the room, the darkest part of Kerdifplaron's chambers. There were no candles here, so the place was lit only barely by the candles at the forefront of the room. Vikashar parted the curtains and hopped onto the bed, pressing his face into one of the pillows and giving a short cry of weariness into the downy material. He was so tired that he hardly felt like sleeping. Vaguely, he tried to remember if he had anything scheduled for the next day, but his mind was not producing any answers. Either he had an appointment with Alchemaestrius for something or another, or he had a piano lesson, or he had to take some time aside to complete the preliminary work on the first exam for Urih-teliean.

He looked forward to none of those possibilities, but at least the last of them could be done on his own time. He had not forgotten about Urih-teliean, though the prospect of answering questions on two exams made him inwardly groan.

Vikashar wrapped the sheets around his form, all the while peering at Kerdifplaron through the wall of fabric as she blew the candles out.

Once she had finished, she sat down, leaned her head backward and stretched herself out. She looked relatively comfortable, Vikashar supposed.

"Everything is ready now. The potions are set. Sleep. Tomorrow, you'll have what you want. You'll suffer, though. You can do all that I've said and prepare yourself as much as is possible, but you shall still suffer to some degree. It cannot be helped. I am glad that are gaining what you wanted, though. Remember the word that I am to give you. It will be upon your tongue when you awaken. There are many more aspects of magic, sorcery, and spellcasting which I wish to teach you, yet those shall have to wait. Come to me when I return from Netera, and I shall tell you more."

Vikashar heard her, though her voice was fading. He smelled the air. It was full of so many sweet, smoky aromas.

"Do not think yourself an expert, brother. This is only one spell," was the last thing that Vikashar heard before his consciousness abandoned him.

He dreamed of music, and ten spheres spinning, but by the time he awoke, the visions were gone.