Chapter 5: Lessons Learned


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Celeste groaned as she stirred from sleep. The ringing bell chimed louder in her head than it should have. She pulled the covers up to protect her head, though to little effect. It also couldn't silence the voice in her head.

Well then, did you want me to teach you about your powers?

She instantly sat upright at that, wincing as sunlight caught directly in her eyes. "You want to do that now?" She asked as she realised how early it still was.

If you do not want my help, then I will retract the offer.

"It wasn't an offer; you made a promise." She sighed, rubbing her face. "Fine. How do we do this?" As she spoke, she slipped out of bed, pulling her jacket on.

We will need a little more space.

She didn't like the sound of that.

With her face washed and trousers on, she strolled out into the garden. It was a pleasant little area. The height of the walls meant there was no wind here, but the amount of glass meant the tree and flowers got enough light. She felt the cool dew on her bare feet as she strolled into the middle, looking around to make sure no one was watching.

"Come on then," She said, a little impatient.

This first power requires you to empty your mind. You must think and feel nothing. In the absence of anything, you will find power.

"Just that?" She asked in disbelief.

I will tell you once we reach that stage.

Celeste rolled her eyes but focused on achieving that state. It was tricky. Thinking of thinking about nothing only drove her further from her goal. The lack of feedback from the spirit only made her more frustrated. This, in turn, got feedback from the spirit.

Why are you annoyed? Just clear your mind.

"That doesn't help," She snapped.

What would you like, soothing music?

"That might be more helpful than you are."

You are just taking your anger out on me.

"What are you talking about? I'm not taking my anger out on you, you are the source of my anger!"

I don't know what you mean.

"Sheepshit, you know what you've done! You killed killed him, and because I cared you got in. You used my emotions against me!" Her heart was pounding. Her voice was too loud in her own ears. But she couldn't stop. "The only place I could go was weeks away from my home, maybe I'll never see it again. How can you not know what I mean?"

Throw your arms back. It instructed.

"What?" She asked, startled by the random request.

Do it, quickly!

She did as she was instructed, throwing her arms out behind her. In an instant, she felt an intense heat blazing behind her. Her ears stung at the sound of the inferno. She slowly turned to see a copy of herself. It mirrored her actions perfectly, standing only a foot away. It was also twice her size and made from fire. She marvelled at the detail for a moment, seeing the uneven strands of her hair made in fire. The only inaccurate part was where the strips of red were in her real hair, these burned with greater intensity.

Almost as quick as it appeared, the fire figure vanished. She fell to one knee, panting. Sweat dripped down her brow from just that short burst of heat.

"Did you trick me into making that?"

No, I planned to teach you that second. But you were in the right emotional state so I decided we might as well skip ahead.

"So, I can create fire?"

More specifically, a fire replica of yourself.

"Well, that is...Helpful. I suppose."

I'm sorry I didn't pick a more useful power for you. Oh wait, I didn't pick the powers.

"Should I try that first one again?"

I think you had better.

Celeste closed her eyes and focused. Her little outburst a moment ago had done something to calm her mind, she realised. She focused on her breathing. She felt the air come in and out of her, the quiet sound. The soft feeling. Then she held her lips together.

Now! Point!

Celeste was startled but did as she was told. She threw her arm out, pointing out a single finger. Nothing changed, that she could notice. She stayed frozen in place.

"What is this supposed to do?" She asked as she received no prompting.

Can't you tell? Look at the flowers where you're pointing.

She looked at them. They were just flowers. Sat there, quiet and still. Then she looked at the grass around them. Even in the courtyard, grass moved. Some wind carried through here. Yet the flower was completely still.

"I can...Stop the wind?"

Not exactly. You can create balls where there is an absence of air. A vacuum.

"A vacuum," She repeated.

"I'm glad to see you're getting the hang of your powers then."

Celeste jumped, spinning around to see Tesni stood there. "Do you have to jump me like that?"

"But it's so much fun." He Laughed. "Besides, you don't notice me even when I'm not trying to hide. I really thought you were going to see me yesterday."

"When were you..."

"Don't worry, I'm not going to be telling any of the other staff about your little heist. I found it quite entertaining to watch."

"Ah. Yes...Well, it was Sabina's idea-"

"I said you aren't in trouble. But I was very interested in seeing you use your powers." His eyes widened as he spoke. "I have been wondering how you beat me up here. But I would like to test your powers further."

"I haven't even begun to practice soothing yet though," She protested. "I was told that I shouldn't be using my powers until then."

"And yet you have. So, this evening, I'll meet you in one of the training rooms upstairs."

"Which one?" She asked.

"Pick one. I'll find you there. Farewell." With that, Tesni turned to walk away. He took a step, then vanished from view.

Although he promised her she wasn't in trouble, Celeste couldn't help but feel as though this training was going to be a punishment of a kind. As she went back into her room, she noticed a note having been posted through her door. She took it out and scanned it. It was a short note, signed by Tristan. It was also in Taoanid. She sighed, concentrating to read it. She was wanted at his office, it seemed. Before her classes.

If she was in trouble then it must be very serious. Surely the headmaster didn't have the time to personally talk to everyone who broke any rules.

She washed and dressed properly for the day before swinging by Sabina's. The door was unlocked as she couldn't lock it when she'd left the previous night. She could hear Sabina snoring peacefully upstairs and didn't want to disturb her. She checked her messages, not seeing anything that looked the same as her own note. That was a good sign, she supposed.

As she continued on her way, Melanie's door opened. The other girl looked startled as she stepped out and saw Celeste.

"Morning," Celeste said with a smile, stopping.

"You know, there are training rooms for you to practice in."

Celeste felt embarrassed, realising she'd been seen. "Oh, right. Sorry if I woke you up."

"I didn't say that," Melanie replied quickly. "Just...There are training rooms for a reason." With that, she turned and left.

Celeste just couldn't figure out what her deal was.

Tristan's office was at the top of the school. This time, Celeste was going through the correct way. She knocked on the heavy door. Tesni responded, looking a little confused until she showed him the message. She was guided up until she was at the very top of the building. A spiral staircase brought her into the well-lit room. Several large windows poured light in, even as they shook with the wind.

She stood patiently, waiting for the headmaster to talk to her. He said quietly, writing something. Finally, he looked up at her, examining her with his unsettling eyes for a moment before speaking.

"I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to catch up with you. How are you getting on with your classes?" His voice was kindly. Maybe she wasn't in any trouble.

"Well, I think, Sir," She said, hurriedly. "I've been having difficulty with soothing, but I have finally figured out my powers. So, I think I will be able to start catching up with that."

"I am glad to hear. Soothing is an important first step. Only when you can make yourself safe can you use your powers safely. Plenty of powerful wizards have fallen because they failed to soothe enough, or effectively." He paused speaking to stand, strolling over to a window and gazing out. It rattled suddenly and he smiled. "This wasn't the office of the previous headmaster, you know. It was mine, back when I was the school's librarian. Sound soothes my spirit."

"Are you telling me to make sure my room soothes me?"

"Hmm?" He said, looking over to her again. "Oh no, sorry, I was just thinking. Though it is good to consider all the ways to soothe your spirit. Some people rely on a large burst of soothing, but I prefer it at a low level. I don't have to think about it. I hear you're still struggling with Taoanid though."

Celeste grew red. "It has only been a week, headmaster, less than that," She blustered out. "I mean I don't know-"

He raised a hand to silence her. "Would you please read out, word for word, the message I sent you?"

Celeste gulped, raising the paper. She scanned it for a few moments, but he continued.

"I'm not trying to make you feel like an idiot or something. But we need you to be fluent. It will ensure all other teaching is easier. As such, I am putting you in an intensive Taoanid class, from today onwards."

"Is that really necessary?" She said with a groan.

"I feel that it is. You can't access the other range of subjects we teach if you can't speak the academic language."

"I thought it was a dead language. Is it really that important?"

"As well as everyone else here speaking it, most books we have are written in it. So yes. This is for your own good. Now, here is your new schedule. You will notice it is a fair bit busier." He handed her the paper he'd been writing on when she'd arrived.

"Three hours of it?"

"I said it was an intensive class. We will leave you in it for four study blocs then review."

"Sir, please-"

Tristan silenced her again. "This is for your own good. Now, be on your way.”

And so it was that Celeste found herself sat miserably in a classroom, waiting for her lesson to start. She'd brought over the stuff to write with, but she didn't want to have to use it. She sat with her face firmly pressed into the desk. She looked up as someone nudged her arm.

"Hey, you're one of the wizards aren't you?" The boy looked no older than her. His messy ginger hair almost blocked his worryingly earnest eyes. He spoke her language with an accent similar to Tristan.

"What gave it away?" She asked, motioning to her hair.

"Well, I'm in your soothing class..."

She stared very hard at the boy, but she did not recognise him at all. She shrugged.

"Umm, I just wondered if I might be able to talk to you about your binding sometime? I mean, the lessons are great, but the more people I talk to the better informed I feel I'll be."

Celeste eyed him suspiciously for a moment before shaking her head. "No, you can't ask me about that," She said bluntly.

"Oh, right. Sorry, I know it can be personal, I didn't mean to-"

"Didn't mean to what? Why do you want to be a wizard? I didn't think anyone chose this."

"Why would I choose that? I mean..." He looked around then leant closer and lowered his voice. "The power you hold. And just, it's incredible. I've sat in on a few of the wizard practical sessions. The abilities you can hold...I was thinking of finding a river spirit, but there are plenty of wizards like that already. But you find reliable use like that..."

"Oh, lay off her, Idris." The voice spoke her language fluently, though there was an irritating drawl to it. "We all know the real reason you want to become a wizard."

Idris blushed and Celeste spun around to look at the other boy. The sneering boy looked like Celeste's image of a typical lowlander. His short-cropped hair was perfectly smoothed, with no touch of wind ever having been near it. He kept his uniform neat enough that he didn't stand out. On closer inspection his laziness was apparent, the wrinkles running throughout the dark material. He feet sat up on his desk and he leant back, almost falling off his chair.

"And why does he want to be a wizard?" She asked, narrowing her eyes slightly.

"Easy way to a commission," He said nonchalantly.

"A what?"

"That's not true, Cosma!" Idris complained.

"A commission?" Celeste repeated.

"He wants a cushy military job. Doesn't actually want to work hard like some of us." Cosma explained, rolling his eyes.

"I am studying harder than you!" Idris' voice was rising, Celeste didn't like how people were looking over.

As a vacuum collapses, air flows into it.

"What?" Celeste muttered under her breath.

Distract everyone. Use your powers ever so subtly.

Idris was about to say more so she panicked and tried to do what her spirit was implying. She focused her mind and held her breath. With a flick of her finger, she made a vacuum behind Cosma's chair. She released it in an instance and his chair was jerked backwards.

Cosma's yell silenced Idris for a moment, then several of the boys in the room burst out laughing. Cosma stood up, planting his chair firmly on the ground and turning on Celeste.

"What was that? What did you do to me you little-"

"Settle down." Came their teacher's voice. "We have a lot to get through and if one of you ends up needing medical treatment, I will make sure you do more work while you heal."

Cosma sat back down, though not before shooting Celeste a dirty look.

Very good work. That other boy is very smart. He appreciates power, I think. If only I'd been bound to someone like him.

She scowled at her spirit's comments, but she couldn't complain for its help. A threat from an idiot had been much better than the scene they'd been creating.

Celeste's head hurt as she left the class. Three hours was a long time to be sat down inside. Sure, she'd managed to sit for ages when watching sheep before, but that was different. Sheep were engaging at least, unlike stale Taoanid texts. And she missed the fresh air of sitting on a wall overlooking her sheep.

She sat on her balcony to enjoy the cool breeze. She considered trying out her powers more, but she knew that wasn't sensible. She'd been using them too much. Yet even the spirit was sounding persuasive. It could feel her temptation and was latching on.

She ate dinner with Sabina but had to turn down her offer of exploring more weird tunnels to go for her meeting with Tesni. She went upstairs, looking for a training room. There were half a dozen in the magical building. Large open spaces with padded flooring. Ropes hung from the ceiling in places and there were overhangs that she couldn't see how you would get onto. As she examined the room, Tesni appeared behind her, characteristically.

"I hope you will be more attentive when you're training."

Celeste jumped as always, turning to him with a scowl. "Could you try to once appear normally? I don't even know if you're teleporting behind me or not."

"Mystery is one of the greatest powers of mine. Now, have you ever sparred before?"

"I don't even know what that is." She admitted.

"Practice fighting." He teleported over to a set of practice swords, grabbed two, then teleported back to her. "Here."

"Is it that hard to walk for you?" She took the sword, examining it. It was lighter than she expected. "What do you want me to do?"

"People often don't know the limits to their powers until put under stress. In danger, we push up to the extent of our limits. And I think your power is more special than you yet realise."

"But I'm not in danger," She said, tapping the sword against her hand. "These are blunt, and I know you wouldn't kill me. Would you?"

"Of course not," Tesni said with a laugh. "But these do hurt like hell if you get hit." With that, he lunged forward and smashed the blunt sword into her thigh.

She yelled, rubbing at the spot he hit. "What did you do that for?"

"To prove to you I will hit you. And that it will hurt. Now, I want you to spar with me. You don't need to try and get any hits in, just do your best not to get hit. And use your gravity power, and that alone. I don't want to be facing off against a blazing inferno."

Tesni got a little way away, giving her space. He gave her a little bow. She returned the gesture. As she lowered her head, he began to sprint towards her. She stumbled back, startled by his sudden motion. He then vanished. For a moment she thought he had slipped out of her vision. Was that possible like this? Then he appeared again, right in front of her. She yelped, bringing her sword up to block his blow.

"Good reactions," He commented.

"Sheep move fast when spooked."

"Not what I told you to do though." He jumped back, vanishing again.

She spun around, used to him coming up on her from behind. She sighed as he took a step behind her. She panicked and felt the ground slip away. She took this as an encouragement to jump away. She lept high into the air. She crashed against a wall, steadying herself with her hand.

"Impressive. You can switch it on and off that easily then?" Tesni called at her.

"The first time it took a bit. Now it's kind of becoming instinctive," She admitted.

"That's good. The more fluidly you can switch it on and off the more precise, you can be. But you need to learn your limits." As he said that he teleported again.

He appeared beside her, one hand on the wall. With the other, he swung his sword at her. She let herself fall just in time that he missed her. She blew gently on her palm that she's scraped against the wall.

He began to attack faster now, lunging at her and only leaving her just enough time to leap away. She moved in graceful arcs, letting herself fall again once she reached her apex. She felt her moves becoming more exact with each attack. As she got better, he got more aggressive. No sooner had she landed than he teleported to her.

This time she took a different route, leaping up to grab one of the ropes. She held on, spinning around and looking down at him.

"You told me to learn limits, well I think I've spotted yours."

"Oh, and what is that?" Tesni asked, grinning up at her.

"You can't teleport into open air. Only if you're touching something. And if you're not going to be able to hit me wherever you get to on the rope."

"Very good." Tesni grinned wider. "But here's something else. I conserve momentum when I teleport." With that, he began to move again.

He teleported, appearing on one of the other ropes. It swung with his carried over momentum and he accelerated towards her. She cried out, letting gravity go again. She closed her eyes in a panic, only when she opened them again, he wasn't heading towards her anymore. She looked up, seeing him standing on the ceiling, the rope still in hand.

"As I suspected. So, you can make it wider."

He let out a cry as she returned gravity and he began to fall. He teleported, but his orientation was maintained as well, and he ended up sprawled on the floor. She slid down the rope and offered him a hand up.

"Well can you explain to me what I did?"

"It's simple. You assumed you only removed gravity on yourself. You actually do it in an area. I can't quite tell if you do it in a sphere or what, but that is very interesting."

"So, as you were about to hit me, I expanded it and you kept going up?"

"Precisely. We haven't figured out your upper limits yet. That will come in time."

"How did you figure this out anyway?" Celeste asked, a little confused.

He just pays attention, unlike you.

"As I watched you hurtling yourself around on the roof yesterday, I noticed flakes of snow moving like they shouldn't have. Which is to say floating." He shrugged, swinging the sword idly before returning it. "The applications of this are going to be very interesting indeed."

"Yeah, I'm sure," Celeste said, breathing heavily from the excitement. She slumped onto the ground, resting the sword next to her.

Tesni vanished for a moment then reappeared next to her, offering her a water skin. She took it gratefully, taking a long drink.

"I feel exhilarated though." She realised. Excitement coursed through her. She'd figured out her powers completely now. Which mean soothing and training would go much easier. "Like, so excited by this. I can't quite describe it."

"Ah yes, I remember that feeling for the first time. You will get used to it."

"What do you mean by that?" She asked, confused.

"I guess they neglected to tell you. Using magic heightens your emotions. As your soul well...expands, as it were, with magic use, your emotions come through stronger, just as the spirit does. It's one of the ways you can tell you're close to being consumed. But it's dangerous too."

Celeste nodded, understanding. "The closer you get to being consumed, the more you think with your emotions. You're more likely to act irrationally."

"Exactly." Tesni nodded sombrely. "Good wizards have fallen prey to that. It is how spirits get to you. They let you reach an emotionally heightened state and play off it."

"Has yours tried to trick you then?"

"Oh constantly," He said with a laugh. "When it wants to be helpful, it is. The spirits of a waymarker, it is very guiding. Just often guiding into ruin."

Celeste looked down, examining her scratched hand.

I truly only want to help you. Power is what I give you, you just need to be brave enough to take it. Together we have so much potential.

"I think I know what it is."

"What what is?" Tesni asked.

"My spirit. I mean, I don't know how it's possible. It's not a place but...I think it's the shooting stars. They represent hope, desire, wishes to people. The potential for better things. It goes on like that a lot. And that explains the fire."

Tesni's eyes widened. "No, no, that makes perfect sense. It's something physical. Shooting stars are, well not stars. They're bits of rock burning up as they come to land. So, the gravity makes sense too, it's what pulls them to us. I've never heard of someone being bound to them before though. That is a very rare spirit you've got."

Celeste felt a sadness overtaking her. She was blessed with such a rare power. And she hated it. She never asked for it and would gladly give it up. But then, maybe that was just her emotions running high. "I need to figure out how to soothe this. Feeling this much is difficult."

"You get more used to it. But it's never easy. Not when the bad feelings come." Tesni moved to sit cross-legged opposite her.

"It's like the Wind though," She said softly. "It brings good with the bad. You feel the pain of it all so much more...But joy must be all the sweeter." She signed, leaning back. "Is it, I don't know, petulant of me to wish I'd never got these powers?"

"Most of us didn't chose this life. Even if you hadn't, it's a false dream to think you'd have lived a normal life, because there's no such thing." He laughed sadly. "At least that's what I tell myself. But since you have this power, this potential, you might as well put it to the best use you can."