Previous: The Seventh Crystal, Part II
Scene 1: Stormshroud Academy: Late Afternoon
Amethyst and Zed stand at the gated entrance to an enormous campus ground in Silveria City’s Mage’s District.
Amethyst: Here it is, Zed: Stormshroud Academy for Young Mages, the most prestigious magic college in all of Ornoposia. I spent most of my time as an apprentice within these very walls, and I loved every second…
Amethyst’s thoughts: …even though it took me 35 years to master the art...
Zed: It’s incredible…
Amethyst: Shall we enter?
Zed: Yes please!
Scene 2: Entrance Hall: Stormshroud Academy: Late Afternoon
The wooden doors to the main building swing open as Amethyst and Zed enter. Zed marvels at the dark brown, intricately carved, and beautifully patterned wooden architecture.
Amethyst: I, too, marvelled when I first arrived in this place.
Zed: It’s amazing… the attention to detail… it must have taken years to complete!
Voice: How did you enter this building?!
An adult human male in blue mage's garb descends the tall staircase toward Amethyst and Zed.
Mage: Only students and faculty are able to enter this academy.
The mage approaches Amethyst with a smile.
Mage: Of course, former students must know how to enter.
Amethyst: Alekzander Stormshroud. It has been too long.
Alekzander: Amethyst Lunerosée. It is good to see your sweet smile again.
Alekzander looks at Zed.
Alekzander: Is this your apprentice, Amethyst?
Amethyst: Indeed. This is Zed Starmute.
Alekzander: Good to meet you, Zed. Call me Alek. Everyone else does.
Zed: Good to meet you too.
Alek: Is there a reason you two have come here?
Amethyst: Well, I have begun to instruct Zed in the ways of-
An elderly gentleman hurries downstairs to Alek.
Alek: What is the matter, Headmaster?
Headmaster: The drakes have escaped from the barn! They are running rampant around campus! They almost tackled the groundkeeper into the pool - and he cannot swim!
Alek: Amethyst? Zed? I could use your assistance.
Amethyst: We would be more than happy to assist!
Alek: Then your arrival is well timed. Now hurry!
The three mages race out of the door.
Headmaster: Good luck to you all!
Alek: Thank you, Headmaster!
Headmaster: I certainly made the right choice by dubbing him an academy magister. Oh well, back to sorting paperwork.
The headmaster begins climbing the stairs, humming a cheerful tune with each step.
Scene 3: Entrance Hall: Stormshroud Academy: Late Afternoon
Amethyst, Zed and Alek enter the entrance hall.
Alek: I must say that was exhilarating! I have not had this much excitement for quite some time!
Amethyst: Indeed. Your skills have improved greatly since last we met.
Zed: I thought that would be more dangerous than it was.
Amethyst: Whatever do you mean?
Zed: Well, I thought we were going to be chasing huge lizards with sharp teeth and claws, not… ducks.
Alek: We would not be so careless as to keep reptilian drakes inside a wooden barn on campus grounds, Zed.
Zed: That’s a relief.
Alek: No, we keep the more dangerous creatures in the monster enclosure. That’s it, just over there.
Alek points to a metal building in a distant corner of campus grounds. It is surrounded by a tall barbed metal fence and a deep moat. Loud bellows are heard within, causing Zed to squeal.
Zed: Th-That’s less comforting...
Alek: Relax, Zed. No monster has escaped from there in thirty years. And even that was just a minor threat.
Alek: Oh, yes. All the dragon did was eat half the animals in the barn and destroy the left side of the dormitories. And the language he used was so…colourful, to say the least. I was two years of age when it first occurred, yet I still remember the incident vividly, so there is no need for concern.
Zed’s eyes bulge in shock.
Amethyst: Uh… why don’t we head inside and have a good meal?
Zed: D-Did he say... w-when it first occurred…?
Scene 4: Temple of Marilina: Late Afternoon
Mak, Emily and Bryn enter the Temple of Marilina, a shrine dedicated to Marilina Silverblade, Celestial Being of the Immortal Twelve. Bryn feels out-of-place.
Bryn: I don’t even revere Marilina. Why did you bring me here?
Mak: You know exactly why, Bryn.
Bryn: Oh, it’ll clear itself up eventually.
Mak: Are you absolutely sure?
Bryn: Well… not really, no.
Emily: Just speak with the High Priestess. She will do all she can to help.
High Priestess: I am afraid there is nothing I can do.
Mak: But what about Bryn?
High Priestess: The condition will resolve itself eventually.
Bryn: HA! What did I tell you?
Emily: We thank you, High Priestess.
Emily bows. The High Priestess bows right back.
High Priestess: May Marilina guide you on your journey.
Bryn: Well, this was a waste of time.
Mak: Visiting the Temple of Marilina is never a waste.
Bryn: I just hope my buddy Brocc is having the time of his life.
Brocc is pursued through a deserted alley by two human thugs wielding comically oversized clubs.
Thug #1: I’ll teach you to sing like a screeching elbok!
Brocc: I was just trying to entertain people!
Thug #1: Well it sounded like you were deliberately mocking our voices!
Thug #2: We’ll pound you, you no-good kid!
Brocc: Oh, Thobrun! Where did you go? I need you NOW!
Mak: When is he not having the time of his life?
Emily smiles at Mak and Bryn.
Emily: I must meditate and replenish my celestial magic.
Bryn: In that case we’ll look for the nearest nightclub.
Mak: Bryn! We are in a sacred temple!
Emily: It is quite alright. The two of you should find entertainment elsewhere. I will be quite a while.
Mak: Very well. We'll be back here in two hours.
Bryn: Two hours?! That's not enough time to-
Bryn: Oh, fine... spoil-sport.
Emily: I look forward to it.
Mak: Okay, Bryn... lead the way!
Bryn: With pleasure!
Scene 5: Stormshroud Academy: Late Night
Zed is asleep in a luxurious bed. He is awoken by a small orb of blue light hovering above him. The orb floats to his room's door.
Zed: What the…?
Zed stands, puts on his shirt and boots, and makes his way to the door, turns the handle, and opens it with a creak. The orb flits through the door and makes its way along the corridor, with Zed following it.
The orb floats to a door labelled “Familiar Studies”. Zed approaches the door.
Zed’s thoughts: I can’t go in there at this time of night... can I?
The door opens. Zed looks at the ground and sees a tiny blue dragon standing at a height no taller than his shin.
Zed: A dragon?
Zed hears a familiar voice from within the room.
Voice: A nanodragon, actually. One of the most elusive creatures of all.
Zed: Oh, Alek.
Alek: Please, come in.
Zed enters the classroom. Inside are white desks with grey chairs, as well as posters describing various creatures on the walls. Five eggs are nested on a countertop at the far side of the room. A board on the left wall is marked with the words “Master Stormshroud” and “Familiar Studies" in blue chalk.
Alek: I apologise for disturbing your rest.
Zed: It’s fine.
Alek: Did you like my illusion?
Zed's eyebrow raises.
Zed: That thing was a spell?
Alek: Indeed. Illusion is my specialty school of magic.
Zed looks around the room.
Zed: Why am I here?
Alek: Tell me Zed... what was the first thing you noticed in this room?
Zed: Uh… the nanodragon. Why?
Alek: When a student is ready to choose his or her familiar, they must enter this classroom. It is almost certain the first thing they notice will be one of seven posters mounted on the far wall. Each depicts an animal well-suited as a familiar, one for each of the seven schools of base magic.
The nanodragon climbs up onto Alek’s right shoulder, draping its tail over his left shoulder. It looks over at Zed and speaks with a masculine voice.
Nanodragon: The animal depicted on the poster is recommended to the student as his or her perfect match, and indeed each creature is symbolic and emblematic of the school it represents.
Zed: Then by all reasoning you should be a pigeon.
Alek and the nanodragon chuckle in unison.
Alek: And Amethyst's familiar should be a cat, no?
Zed: Oh, right... I suppose it varies by individual, huh?
Alek and the nanodragon nod in unison.
Nanodragon: You first noticed myself rather than one of the posters. This means your perfect match may, in fact, be none of the animals in question.
Nanodragon: What was the next thing you noticed?
Zed: Uh… the eggs on the countertop.
Alek: The eggs appear ordinary, with plain, beige shells, yet you took notice of them. Why is that?
Zed: I’m not sure... I just thought they looked cool.
Alek: Pick up the first egg that caught your eye.
Zed walks to the eggs, which are somewhat bigger than a hen’s egg. He picks up the egg between the middle one and the right-hand one.
Alek: Now speak the bottom-most word on the blackboard.
Zed: Uh… “Familiar!”
The egg glows and enlarges. Its shell turns a shimmering silver.
Alek: You have bonded with your familiar, connecting you for eternity.
Zed: My familiar is an egg?
Alek: For now, yes.
Alek: You should return to your room. I trust you require more rest.
Zed: It couldn’t hurt.
Alek: Good. I have some business to which I must attend. Goodnight, Zed.
Zed leaves the room. Alek closes the door.
Zed: Okay... I have a nanodragon egg. Hey there, little guy!
Zed's thoughts: Look at me, talking to an egg... I wonder when it'll hatch...
A figure lurks in the darkness, observing as Zed returns to his room. The figure is obscured, the only visible feature being one end of a quarterstaff wrapped in fuchsia-coloured ribbons.
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Scene 6: Illusion Studies: Stormshroud Academy: Morning
Zed sits at a desk in a classroom filled with adult students of a multitude of races. Two human male students gawk at Zed.
Student #1: Heh, get a load of the new guy!
Student #2: Yeah, what is he, a giantborn?
Student #1: Last I checked, giantborn were savage brutes. I didn’t even know they could use magics.
Student #2: And he’s, like, fifty. Isn’t he a bit old to start magic classes?
The two students snicker. A human female student scolds them.
Student #3: Enough! You two are worse than a couple of elboks!
Zed notices the female student.
Zed’s thoughts: Wow, she seems… almost... familiar...?
Student #1: Whatever...
Student #2: Spoil-sport…
Alek enters the classroom, his familiar perched on his shoulder.
Alek: Good morning, class.
Class: Good morning, Master Stormshroud.
Alek sits at his desk.
Alek: We have a new student joining us today. His name is Zed Starmute and he joins us all the way from-
Student #1: I think we know where he’s from, Master.
Student #2: (cocky tone) Yeah, all giantborn originated in Tundwaldun!
Zed: Tund… wahl… doon?
The student to Zed’s right, a humanoid male with wolf-like traits, whispers to him.
Wolfborn: I’ll explain later.
Zed: Thank you.
Alek: There are, in fact, several giantborn clans in the mountains that border our neighbouring kingdom of Goldenia. But Zed is no giantborn.
Student #2: So what is he, some oversized freak of nature?
Student #1: Ooh, nice one!
Alek: He is human, like the both of you.
Student #1: No kidding.
Alek: I am serious. And you are both wearing on my patience.
Student #1: He’s really a human? Incredible…
Alek: I assure you it is quite true. Zed, why don’t you tell the class about yourself?
Zed: I’ll do my best...
Zed stands and faces the class, clearing his throat.
Student #2: Ooh... everyone be quiet so the new guy can speak!
The female student nudges the second student.
Student #2: Ow! Master Stor-
Alek points at the student, a stern look on his face. The student settles down.
Zed: Well, I don’t remember my full name, so I’ve been going by the name Zed. I don’t remember anything about my life until just over a year ago, when I wandered into a nearby town called Silvertooth.
Kendall: Oh, that's where my sister and I live!
Zed: An elven mage named Amethyst took me on as her apprentice, and-
Student #3: Excuse me for interrupting, but did you say you are the apprentice of Amethyst Moondew?!
Student #3: Isn’t she your former associate, Master Stormshroud?
Alek: Indeed, and she is still one of my oldest and dearest friends.
Student #3: Then you must be quite the spellcaster by now, Zed.
Zed: Well… I’m still mastering the basics. I’m good at cantrips, but…
Student #2: What’s your favourite spell?
Student #1: Well, we’d expect nothing less from a lowly cantripper!
The two students laugh loudly. Alek becomes angry.
Alek: That is it! Both of you, to the Headmaster’s office!
Student #2: It was worth it.
The two students head to the door. The first one looks over his shoulder back at Zed.
Student #1: I’ll be seeing you later, cantripper!
The students leave the classroom, closing the door behind them.
Alek: Right, now we may proceed with the lesson. Zed, if you have any questions, Kendall here-
Alek gestures to the wolfborn.
Alek: -has volunteered to assist you.
Student #3: I'm willing to assist also, Master Stormshroud.
Alek: Of course, Laura. I’m sure Zed will appreciate the aid.
Zed: Thank you.
Alek: Now, if you open your books to chapter three, page eleven, we can continue our study on summoning phantasms…
Scene 7: Courtyard: Stormshroud Academy: Early Afternoon
Zed, Kendall, and Laura sit on a bench beneath a tree.
Zed: -and then my hair turned blue!
Laura: That must have been quite a shock for the store owner!
Zed: Mr. Newt? He was really startled! But at least then I knew I had some kind of arcane talent.
Kendall: Well, Laura and I are from a family devoted to such arts.
Zed: You two are related?
Laura: Well… in a way, yes. We are siblings.
Zed: Really? But… you’re a human and Kendall’s a wolfborn!
Kendall: Allow me to explain. We share the same mother, but our fathers are distinct. My father was a werewolf, and Laura’s is human.
Zed: Oh, I see…
Kendall: I still have fond memories of my father. He would always stand up for me when other children teased me about my lupine features. We would go camping every summer, and on the night of the full moon we sat on the cape and howled for hours. If anyone had lived there it would have driven them mad!
Zed: He sounds wonderful.
Kendall: He was… until one night, when he simply vanished.
Kendall: We were told by the town guards there was no trace of him, and he may very well have been dead. I was distraught for months. Eventually my mother remarried. At first I was unsure, but eventually I grew to love my new father. Laura’s arrival helped solidify my bond with him also.
Laura: We are a very tightly-knit family. The losses we’ve suffered have only brought us closer together.
Zed: I wish I could tell you about my family, but I can’t even remember my own name.
Laura: Oh, I’m sure you will remember eventually, Zed.
Zed: Maybe. Still, my new adventuring companions are like my surrogate family.
Kendall: That’s the spirit, Zed! Now, how about we proceed to the dining hall for some lunch?
The trio stands and heads toward the dining hall.
Zed’s thoughts: I need to try and figure out Laura… there’s definitely something... familar about her...
Scene 8: Stormshroud Academy: Early Afternoon
Zed, Laura and Kendall proceed toward the dining hall. Zed notices a glow coming from a nearby hallway entrance.
Zed: What’s that?
Kendall: I know not. We must be cautious.
Zed and Kendall proceed into the hallway. Kendall pauses and looks in Laura's direction.
Kendall: Are you coming?
Laura: Actually, Kenny, I’ll stay here and leave the investigating to the master apprentices.
Kendall: Very well.
Laura’s thoughts: Why am I suddenly intrigued by Zed’s hand…?
Zed and Kendall turn left into another hallway, which is heavily damaged: paintings crooked, carpeting in shreds, and furniture splintered and broken. Deep claw marks line the wooden walls.
Zed: What could have done this?!
An eerie roar bellows from around the corner. An immense, ghostly blue monster emerges from the right hallway and stares directly at Zed and Kendall. Zed panics.
Kendall: What IS that thing?!
Zed: You mean you don’t know?
Kendall: I’ve never seen a creature like it!
The creature runs towards the two of them. Zed and Kendall cry out loud. Suddenly, a trio of orbs appears before Zed, with each glowing in a unique hue of light (from right to left): teal, cyan, and azure. The central orb is noticeably larger than the others.
A small, glowing white spark zips from the cyan orb to the azure orb, causing the cyan orb to shrink and the azure orb to grow.
Kendall: Wh-What is that...?
The orbs suddenly flash away as quickly as they'd appeared.
Zed: But... what the-
Suddenly, a blizzard howls from behind Zed and Kendall, driving away the monstrosity before them.
Zed: That was close…
Kendall: How are we unharmed?!
Zed: Huh? Oh, my crystal must have protected us.
Zed reaches into his shirt and lifts the Azure Crystal. He cradles it in his hands for Kendall to see.
Kendall: Well, that is quite the artefact. It is lucky you possess it.
Zed tucks the crystal back into his shirt.
Zed: Yep. So… should we tell someone about the creature?
Kendall: Yes. Let's inform the headmaster at once.
Scene 9: Headmaster’s Office: Stormshroud Academy: Early Afternoon
The Headmaster sits in a brown leather chair, its arms adorned with finely-sculpted golden dragons. He takes a sip from a teacup, then rests it in a saucer which he places on his desk. A knock sounds through the door.
The heavy wooden door opens with a loud groan, and Zed and Kendall enter.
Kendall: Headmaster Stormshroud?
Headmaster: Ah, Kendall, please enter. Do sit down and help yourself to a biscuit.
Kendall: Thank you kindly, but unfortunately I am unable to eat chocolate.
Kendall and Zed sit on seats facing the headmaster. Zed removes his right glove and reaches for a biscuit. The headmaster stares at Zed’s hand for a moment, before snapping back to reality as Zed takes a bite.
Headmaster: Now, what may I do for you gentlemen?
Kendall: We’d like to report a sighting of a monster within the campus walls.
Headmaster: Oh no… the dragon hasn’t escaped again, has he?
A look of horror spreads across Zed’s face as he nearly chokes.
Zed: I knew it!
Kendall: No, nothing like that.
Headmaster: Frightful creature. Off his rocker, don’t you know? He was part of the janitorial staff until he snapped. Now he spends his days cooped up in his cage, hollering off swears like they’re going out of fashion.
Kendall: It’s a blue phantasm.
Headmaster: A blue phantasm?
Kendall: Yes, resembling an arbour beast, only much more fearsome. It's destroyed the hall under the main stairs.
Headmaster: Well, we will look into this matter right away. In the meantime, why not head to the dining hall for a spot of lunch? It’s Stew Tuesday today. A nice bit of braised drake with fresh vegetables… delicious!
Kendall: Thank you, Headmaster.
Zed and Kendall leave the office, closing the door behind them.
Zed: Ooh, I like drake stew... I think...?
Kendall: That's good. This school has the best drake stew in the-
Kendall’s ears suddenly stand up.
Kendall: Oh! There’s Laura!
Zed: Where? I don’t see-
Kendall: Downstairs, just under our feet.
Zed: How did you know that?
Kendall: Wolfborn have an acute sense of hearing.
Zed: Oh. Nice!
Kendall heads down the hallway, with Zed following behind as he shoves the rest of his biscuit into his mouth.
Zed’s thoughts: Okay, why do I suddenly feel her presence…?
Scene 10: Alek’s Office: Stormshroud Academy: Evening
Amethyst and Alek sit on a couch in Alek’s office, reminiscing about their respective times as apprentices to Newt.
Amethyst: -at which point he he singed his eyebrows!
Alek: Oh, that sure sounds like him!
Amethyst: They took years to grow back. There were still bald patches by the time I completed my apprenticeship!
Alek: I noticed that when he first accepted me as his new apprentice. He gave me a quizzical expression which seemed to read, “Why on Junihoshi are you staring at me like that, boy?”
Amethyst: And what happened next?
Alek: He asked me, “Why on Junihoshi are you staring at me like that, boy?”
The two friends laugh.
Amethyst: Oh, he is a quirky individual, is he not?
Alek wipes a tear from his eye with a gloved finger.
Alek: Which only adds to his charm.
Amethyst and Alek make eye contact.
Amethyst: It is so good to catch up with you again, Alekzander.
Alek: And you as well, old friend.
Three city guards burst into the office.
Guard #1: Alekzander Stormshroud?
The other two guards approach Alek.
Guard #1: You are under arrest for extensive damages to Stormshroud Academy by way of a conjured illusory beast.
The guard grabs Alek’s hands and binds them with manacles.
Alek: May I ask why you believe this to be so?
Guard #2: Two students reported the destruction to Headmaster Eugolelias Stormshroud, who also claimed to have seen a bright blue illusion being controlled by an individual matching your description.
Alek: But… I did no such atrocity!
Guard #3: Come on, you can plead your case back at the garrison.
The guards pull Alek from the room.
Alek: Amethyst! Find Kendall and let him know what has happened!
The guards close the doors. Amethyst stands staring at them in a state of mild shock.
To be Continued…
Next: The Shrouding Storm
About the Creator
You’ve heard of the Many Worlds Theory? Well, Orion J. Zed has imagined hundreds of worlds in his creative endeavours, many of which are documented in some form.
He rarely refers to himself in the third person other than “About Me” sections.