Author's Note: Hello readers, learned and inept. Hasn't been too long since last time, things got ahead of me and school is very reading heavy, I do recommend you take a mythology class though it won't be all 'this is what Zeus said' and instead it will be like a philosophy class without all the bullshit. I may have a beef with philosophy...just maybe.
Chapter 3: Is it Possible for Something to Hurt this Much?
Feeling your back crash against the stone wall would make you think that you broke something, or at least guarantee that you'll end up living the rest of your life in a wheelchair surrounded by nurses. Of all the ways to go, that didn't sound too bad. But alas it would be for naught as this time as Travis managed to avoid Brandon's fist which from plowing him into the slab of concrete blocking the underground room from the studying facilities, the placement of rooms seemed a little off.
"Son of a bitch," Travis said between deep breaths, his chest hurt and his legs were weak.
"Come on, we only have fifteen more minutes of training, you can handle that snow cone," Brandon walked up to him, seemingly unphased and completely fine despite doing this for about two hours.
"I don't know what's worse," Travis struggled to get up, but when he did his back arched forward as he kept sucking in air as if it were a precious commodity, "the training or the nicknames."
"You got Vet to call me 'Druid Boy'!" The two heard shout from the far side.
"Shut it Reese!" Both Travis and Brandon yelled back simultaneously, they both looked at each other.
"That was an accident," Travis assumed, partly stated or ordered in a sense.
"Yeah," Brandon was mortified that he might share some shred of commonality with Travis, "totally not planned." It took a moment of silence for Brandon to remember what he was doing and his arm sparked with electricity. "Get running snow cone."
Scrambling, Travis made a mad dash, before Brandon shot his fist to the ground releasing bolts of lightning from his knuckles. "Fuck!" Travis shouted narrowly avoiding it, but some of the bolts were able to make contact with his jeans. The new mage then had to avoid multiple shots of lightning as Brandon didn't let up his assault, having to turn on some pretty tight dimes. The last turn forced his feet into an uncomfortable stride and he was about to trip. On his last uneasy step Travis reached out with his hand and focused on the cool of the air, mist that could be seen coming out of his breath, and the chill on his skin.
From Travis' feet stretched out a spit of ice, large enough to go past his feet and then some more. Ducking his head he leaned in, a natural instinct at this point, and his feet slide across the eyes. Gliding like some kind of Olympic ice skater. But the ice didn't just stop with a single footstep, no it continued as Travis slid across the concrete floor with a thin ice sheet every inch that he moved across. When he got his balance back Travis looked more like some kind of snowboarder holding out his arms just enough to keep him balanced. The unfortunate part was that he was running out of space to slide across, and there was an endless barrage of lightning bolts behind him. Brandon was really going to make him work for this. Turning his foot slightly Travis shifted his whole body to the side and turned on a dime carrying his momentum with him. Right at the corner where he turned, multiple icicles sprouted striking the wall, some breaking while some jabbed the concrete structure. In a simple movement Travis raised his foot up, almost like he was going to step off an escalator, and stepped off, the ice ending. Perhaps five seconds passed by and then he fell to the floor.
"Whoa, easy there man," Brandon was prepared and managed to hold him up by his arm, Travis was breathing harder than before. Slowly, the two hobbled over to the wall behind Travis where Reese, Kylie, and Sam were sitting, watching the training exercise. Carefully he set down Travis who sat on the floor, a sheen of sweat could be seen as his chest heaved.
"Water," he barely managed to breath, Reese handed him a water bottle where the cap was quickly screwed off, he threw it aside like it was bill from the IRS. However the moment he drank the first bits of liquid he spit it back out. Despite being somewhat cold felt like it had been left out in the sun all day. "Dammit," with a roll of his eyes he chilled the water down to near ice levels of temperature. He took another swig and this time it was much better. "There we go, that hits the spot."
"So how has it been?" Travis looked up to Reese and coughed twice before speaking.
"Well the last symptoms of the exposure sickness has finally worn off, I found the perfect temperature to put the shower at, and I got to trip one kid who I hated by making a sheet of ice. No one even noticed," Travis chuckled before taking a sip from the bottle.
"You shouldn't do that man, that's how we get found out," Brandon chided, a small frown and a flat tone. "Or at least expose them magic in the same case as you when Reese decided to be stupid."
"Gee, how long are you gonna keep hammering that whenever I'm with you?" Reese asked, everyday Travis had been with them and he did something wrong Brandon always made mention of how this was all Reese's fault.
"Until he actually starts to look decent," Brandon replied.
"I've been here three weeks guys," Travis said, but didn't look up at the two above him, his eyes fixed on the far wall.
"And for what it's worth, you've been doing pretty well. You're at least only two years behind where we are currently," Reese said to him looking down.
"Yeah, we've just been doing all that in these wonderful little sessions like right now," Travis gave a fake cheer, "seriously, if it isn't combat shit then it's reading books."
"I thought you liked the reading?" Brandon questioned, despite all his grievances with him, Travis was at least enthusiastic about going through many of the magical textbooks to get him caught up.
"Oh I love the readings," Travis responded in a matter of fact tone, "I just don't need you guys staring at me like hungry hawks. I feel like I'm back at that interrogation table."
"We only do that so in case you have question we're right there," Reese said back to him, putting his hand on the top of Travis' blonde head.
"I could always ask you the next day, it's not like we see each other every single day," he never imagined that there would be this much time spent together. Before school, during lunch and between classes, and after school. They were practically controlling his social life. Maybe this was a cult..
"Since we're here, may as well help you out man," it didn't seem like there was any way to discourage them from watching him like a vulture.
"Whatever happened to privately studying?" The Ice Mage asked himself finally being able to stand up but his legs felt like they were on fire, "It's not I'm going to make a break for it. I couldn't do it now if I tried."
"That just means we can catch you," Brandon chuckled, not nearly as evil most times when doing training but only a titch of evil sprinkled in maybe a third of a cup of evil sprinkles. What 'evil sprinkles' even were will be answered at a later date.
"Why does that fill me with dread?" He bounced back at him.
"Okay, I think that's enough," Kylie, who had been silent for the back and forth between Travis, Reese, and Brandon, "it's about time we should go home."
"Is someone willing to carry me?" Travis asked with a bit of childlike hope, even though he fully well knew the answer.
"Not in a million years."
"You're not worth the effort."
The group didn't expect that last one to come from the quiet one, Sam, who when they all looked at him covered his mouth with both his hands and his eyes wide. He looked surprised himself that he let his mouth slip.
"What the fuck?" Reese uttered under his breath as he stared at the usually reserved kid.
"I think you've been spending too much time around your cousin," Travis said to him.
"Agreed," Brandon said in conjunction. The two shared a glance before shaking heads, "goddammit."
The door to Travis' house slammed and he felt like fainting when he saw the comfy two seat couch across the room. He dropped his backpack with a loud thud echoing in the empty house, he didn't even care as it fell over, his keys placed on a table after practically slamming them down. Slowly, he made his way over to the freezer, his legs begging to sit down soon or they might revolt. With all that's happened recently Travis wouldn't be surprised by this point. Reaching his hand in he felt around until he grabbed a whole box of popsicles, that would suffice for now, he needed to reach the couch before his legs gave up on life.
"Ah, god," he groaned as he finally got to relax and reached into the box and pulled out a cherry red popsicle, "perfect, got the best flavor."
"I prefer the blue raspberry," Travis swung his head around so fast it might have caused whiplash. In his house, on his stairwell, was Vet. The mysterious security guard who introduced him to magic formally, Reese only introduced him to it through...less than preferable methods. "What's up snowcone?"
"I thought you hated puns?" Travis raised an eyebrow at the older man in an overcoat, he nodded with a shrug.
"For the most part," he agreed holding a blue stick of a flavored frozen treat, "I'm more surprised that you aren't questioning why I'm in your house."
Oh yeah, there was that.
"A good question," Travis agreed, turning his head back, "why are you in my damn house? Not trying to convert my mother are ya?"
"We told you she was going to be uninvolved in the first place," Vet said, Travis could hear him walking forward, "besides she left you a note that she was working late tonight." Vet came full around and sat in a recliner while finishing the rest of his popsicle, "I came to visit to see how are new mage is adapting to his new life, it's been about three weeks."
"Well," Travis had trouble where to start, "the extra workload is a bit much in terms of studying but I'm keeping up, having my ass blasted by Brandon is more than I was expecting, oh and there's the whole issue with water."
"By what do you mean?"
"I can't drink anything at room temperature, I have to chill it before hand. You ever tried to drink milk when it's more of slushy? It sucks, don't even get me started on orange juice."
"Well, all mages have some sort of thing they got to live with," Vet scratched his temple, moving a bit of his dark colored curly hair.
"I would like to see that, the others all seem to be fine."
"Ice Mages like yourself have issues with heat outside of food, their bodies are modified to live in colder temperatures. Reese, a Nature Mage, while practically immune to most regular diseases like the cold or the flu is more in danger of fungal infections and polluted areas can take a toll on him, he needs to be in a clean environment. Brandon is a Lightning/Electricity Mage, their big drawback is that they need to watch out for conduits, and shag carpeting or else they run the risk of causing the world's most comical explosion. Kendra is the exact opposite of you, being a Fire Mage she needs to be in warmer climate or she gets pissy. Kylie, as a Water Mage has to remain hydrated at all times or she grows lethargic, it's sort of similar to you but not nearly as bad as you where you require a certain desired temperature."
"They sure seem like they got it handled," Travis said reaching into the box and pulling out another popsicle, applying his cold touch refreezing it.
"They've had years to get used to it, honestly you don't have a lot to worry about, cooling your drinks will come as second nature for you and will basically happen whenever you touch something. You can easily mask it off as just having cold hands, Brandon can't just say he's conductive for some reason despite wearing rubber soled shoes."
"What about Sam?"
"Hmm?" Vet raised his head slightly.
"Sam, Kendra's cousin, what's with him?"
"A million things," Vet sighed, crossing his arms in his seat, "even though Kendra's family is magically inclined, her aunt wanted nothing to do with it. She tried to live a life devoid of interacting with magic."
"Is it that impossible for that kind of life to be?"
"No, it is difficult, especially when she married someone who had no idea that magic really existed. Trying to juggle two lives at once is basically impossible even for someone like myself," Travis rolled his eyes as Vet cracked a smile, "but between the fact Kendra and Sam saw each other often because they lived so close he eventually found out. Can't blame him, he figured out because of proximity not unlike some idiots who go snooping around the school two hours after it ended."
"I'm just going to ignore that last comment," Travis reached in again to grab a green colored popsicle, man he was going through these fast.
"I remember having to talk to Sam's mother about it, she threw a lamp at me."
"You talked to Sam's mother about that kind of issue? What the hell do you actually do? You know, beside break into people's houses and eat my popsicles."
"Funny," Vet shot Travis a glance, "my job is a Magical Overseer. The school you attend is the only school in a wide radius who accepts students that are either mages or are aware of magic, your likeliness that something magic related will happen increases exponentially if you know about magic so by putting a large amount in a single space we can defend you, and you can defend each other. It's my job to keep up with the students and know there progress along with any developments concerning"
"Doesn't that mean that the regular students are put in danger if you put all the kids in one place?"
"Yes and that's the tradeoff, if we went the other way we run the risk of losing mages to demons, rogue mages, and a myriad of other awful things."
Demons? Rogue mages? How far did this crazy rabbit hole travel.
Vet leaned back, his recliner creaked as a result, "Proponents of this strategy point out two things that can be beneficial for mages. One: possibly 'recruitment', the perfect example would be you." Travis had to agree if only begrudgingly, "The second is having mages interact with regular people. The vast majority of people have no clue that magic exists and at young ages some mages are kept from the world for fear of some of those nasty things I mentioned earlier. School is their only outlet and chance to see what the regular world was like."
"Shut-ins basically," Travis said.
"You got it, Reese was like that, dear god he was so socially awkward, he couldn't speak to girls unless he was stiff as a tree."
Both he and Travis chuckled, for equally evil reasons. Vet liked to laugh at mages who gave him trouble, which Reese was definitely one of them well before Travis showed up. Travis just wanted some ammunition should Reese ever try anything funny.
When he settled down, Travis leaned forward and put his fifth popsicle in the trash, "Hey so I was wondering something." Vet looked up which he took as a signal to keep going, "Why are there so few of designated as 'Combat Mages'. I was in the training rooms area and saw some kids shooting fire from their hands."
Vet nodded and placed his hands flat running perpendicular to his face as they touched his chin. "You know how everyone is skilled in different things?" Travis nodded, "Well the same applies to magic, not everyone is going to excel at combat, research, or whatever use they can apply magic too."
"So it's not like I can say 'Screw combat, I'm going to go be potion brewer' or something?"
"Yes and no, some people excel at everything, sure there are very few of them but they do exist. These are naturally world famous mages in our community. Sam is something like those mages."
"When we found out your magic that night we also found your speciality. You were easily combat focused, you were about as strong as Brandon and Kendra in terms of raw potential." Hearing that made Travis feel a little good about himself, "But you were virtually useless in terms of research." And Vet made sure to put him back in his place. "Not like Sam."
"Wait, let's back petal for a second, explain the difference between the different 'specialties' of magic. I don't think I've gotten that far in my books."
"Sure," A magic circle formed on the floor with multiple symbols that Travis now recognized after the three weeks he'd been studying. "Magic is divided into multiple different aspects, while the possibilities are virtually endless they are generally divided into three main categories."
A third of the circle lit up with three faceless bodies of light were formed. Travis could recognize these shapes as himself, Brandon, and Kendra, "The first is combat, people who excel in this aspect greatly are able to use magic proficiently in fights. This can be hurling fireballs, summoning lightning bolts, or bringing down icicles. The styles of fighting are dependent on what the particular mage chooses which are endless.
As that third of the circle stopped glowing, another third brightened with the bodies of what Travis assumed was Reese and Kylie. "The next is utility. Mages proficient in this aspect can use their magic in ways a militaristic mage couldn't imagine. For instance, Reese is able to create roots that can do more than smack stupid nosey teenagers, but can lift and manipulate objects. Water Mages like Kylie tend to be able to cure diseases through whatever crap that allows Water Mages to do that. I really don't understand that either. Kylie and Reese are technically combat mages, but they have enough talent in utility that they can cross over into this realm."
The second third's glow died down and the final piece of the magical pie glowed, with it though was a single person, much smaller and looked like they were holding a few textbooks. "The last one is research. These mages are excellent at finding the answers that we cannot even fathom. Magic creates ten questions for every answer we find, and we trust these mages to understand. Most, if not all, are well versed in what's known as 'Meta Magic' something that even I have trouble understanding so I'm not going to even let you ask. Little Sam is a rare case where he could be either a combat orientated mage or a research orientated mage. That makes him a hot commodity."
"And a target I presume?"
"That's why we put him with you guys. You're all strong, even if some of you only have three weeks of practice. I hear you're only a few years behind the others, you'll probably be close to their level by the end of school year."
"That soon?" Travis was surprised for two reasons. That seemed awfully fast if he just started three weeks ago, and he finished the whole box of popsicles, there was like fifteen of those things in there.
"You're a smart kid, if you excuse the fact you stick your nose in dangerous situations, you've picked up on a lot of things it takes kids much younger than you years to get. I saw your training with Brandon, you've improved a lot since Reese slapped you with that overgrown root."
Travis was certain he was going to be forever reminded of that, "Gee thanks."
"Magic is a construct of intelligence and the heart, it is the culmination of your spirit and mind so to speak," Vet explained, "you happen to be very smart even if you tend to be lazy and that's been carrying the extra baggage. People like Reese, Brandon, and Kendra focus on the more emotional aspect of it."
"You're saying they get moody?"
"No, more like they can fuel their magic with their emotions, on the opposite side of the spectrum you power your magic through intellect. The more into it the others get, the more powerful theirs become, while calculating your spells and focusing on a minute detail will increase your power. You micromanage, while they get inspired. Kylie and Sam are like you who focus on the intellectual side of things."
"How perfect that it's split down the middle," Travis rolled his eyes and stood up, throwing the empty popsicle box.
"Some things just fall into place like that. So how far have you got into your studies?" Vet asked from the other side of the wall. Travis reached into the fridge and pulled out a cool water bottle.
"I've gone through the Basics of Magic, An Introduction to Magic for Nosey Kids, and Ice Magic for Dummies. I usually keep finding myself going back to that last one for basic spells and in case I've missed something."
"Well I have troubles with the Ice Road spells, it doesn't work a hundred percent of the time, I tend to crash into the wall which hurts, some of the other combat spells are proving to be a bit tricky."
"That all comes in time kid, the fact you've gotten this far says something about your character."
"And when were you this complimentary?" Travis finally asked, "When we first met you didn't particularly like me, and that continued for a while, we haven't seen each other all week so it feels a little jarring."
Vet once again nodded understandingly, he stood up and like so many great movie actors trying to make a deep and meaningful point to get to the character listening he walked to and gazed out the window. Looking at the darkening sky with one of the lamp posts flickering on and off. "It's true I didn't like you, there are still some things I don't really care for, but when we learned that you had a combat focus that changed. You see, I have a soft spot for mages like that, when I was younger I fought in the Inner World fighting other mages and monsters long thought lost to the general public. So I know what you're going to go through, and I won't lie when I tell you it ain't sunshine and roses." Vet turned to face Travis, making eye contact, "I also want you to take care of them."
"What do you mean by that? They seem pretty capable," between shooting lightning, throwing fireballs, Travis figured the group seemed pretty good with or without them.
"Not that, I mean when interacting with people who are...normal in a sense. They don't get much time to explore the world."
"You're saying they're inept of how the world works?"
"No, for the most part they understand how the outside world works and how society functions, but they all view it from a magician's perspective. You on the other hand have seen the world work in a normal person's perception up until a few weeks ago. Yeah sure they understand the politics of the normal world, and how people operate and socialize; and they definitely do their best and do a good job at it, but it's all through fake smiles and unfulfilled wishes. Do you realize how badly a mage wants to be normal? It happens to everyone and one day you'll wish you could go back to those days."
"So what? You want me to give them a crash course on being normal? I hate to tell you this, but I wasn't exactly the model citizen. I got into fights, worked with the smokers and the people who did chew, I barely try in school, I used to spend my afternoons in the metalshop...," the list went on for a while, maybe twenty minutes, "...I use to put applesauce on my macaroni and cheese, I-"
"I think I got the point Travis," Vet said stopping him, "I'm not saying you need to be their tour guide for a normal happy life, just try to make sure they act like kids. You're all still in high school and have your whole lives in front of you, it'd be a shame if it was all squandered in that stuffy training room or study halls."
Travis thought about it for a while, "Yeah I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right, I'm me," Vet said earning a small scowl of annoyance from the Ice Mage. Vet made his way to the door. "You've done well so far, don't let it go to your head though. Oh! And when you use your Ice Road, lower your hands a bit, you're relying too much on your arms for balance. For a smooth transitions you'll want your body as nimble as possible and your arms can hinder that."
The odd man removed an tan overcoat from the coat hanger and put it on his back, the door opened, and Travis was left to his lonesome. "Well..." he said to himself, "time to get back to readin-Oh shit! I have a essay due tomorrow!"
-The next day-
Travis was having trouble reading, something was distracting him, and no it wasn't that old grandfather clock that kept making that awful 'tick-tock' sound like always. No, it was Sam. Before he hated when the others would just stare at him waiting to ask questions, getting a session with Sam was like a godsend.
"A normal life huh?"
Now though, knowing what he knows now, seeing the top of Sam's brown colored dome with his nose deep in a book whose title made his head hurt, sort of bugged him. Seriously, which was annoying because the book Travis was reading was about cryomancy techniques. He wanted to make some weapons out of ice dammit.
"Ugh," he gave a guttural growl and slammed his book shut with one hand, Sam was so engrossed in his book that he barely tilted his head up.
"Trouble?" The kid asked, it was kind and caring even though it looked like he was too focused on his book to care.
"No, nothing," Travis lied, "just getting a little cramped that's all." He stretched his back and arms causing them to crack several times. It bothered him, everything, he was kicking himself right now for what he was about to do, but for god sakes it was eating him alive. "Hey, whatcha doing Friday?"
The question appeared to catch Sam off guard, he lifted his head a little then fully on the second time around. "What?"
"Well, I don't have any kind of training that day and we don't have our god forsaken art club that day so I thought we could hang out."
"Hey I enjoy the art club," Sam defended.
"Dude, you and I are easily the worst one's there, you draw stick figures and you can't even keep them straight. You draw curved stick figures man, that takes an incredible amount of skill and sucking mixed into one."
"I like it because of the social aspect."
"Dude, you only talk to Kendra and the others, hardly see you ever talk to anyone besides the teacher." Sam jerked and chuckled nervously, "Listen, I have a few friends and on Friday nights we like to go bowling, I haven't been able to go these past few weeks because…you know, why don't you come?"
"I don't know," Sam contemplated.
"What if I brought Reese? He would go with me a few times...and as I'm saying this I'm starting to realize why he sad no sometimes. At least this way you have someone to talk to outside of me, no doubt a my friends are going to wondering where the hell I've been. He can even help coming up with a few lies if need be. We'll just make sure he doesn't slap anybody with a vine or send fairies after anybody."
"I still don't think I should."
"Come on man, what's the worst that can happen? I'm not asking you to sell your soul, just a few hours having fun, knocking over some pins, and maybe buying overly expensive french fries. What'd ya say?"
Sam took a sigh, "You're not going to stop are you?"
"That depends, you coming or not?"
"Sure, fine, when and where?"
"Don't worry about where, I'll pick you up, I imagine you're going to spend all day reading here again so I'll leave and pick you back up, the school ain't too far from me. Expect me to come a little before five. Oh, and in case you're a germaphobe don't go into the arcade, I don't think they've cleaned it in about...ever."
So. Much. Dialogue. My apologies for spending nearly all of the chapter on that, I am planning on having the next chapter have some actual magical combat. Yes, there will be non-magical people in the story next chapter. How will the three new mages get by? How will Travis's first experience in having to try to keep his newfound secret? I don't know and I'm the one writing this blasted thing.