Forte woke up early the next morning, and headed to the Eye of Newt for breakfast. He ordered a savory pancake ladled with gravy and duck, and then headed out to Alfred Bumbus’ shop. As he walked, he took off his amulet and placed it carefully in his bag. He dodged underneath baubles and gizmos from the many stores lining the central market, and made his way towards the east side of Burstranton. Before long, he had reached Bumbus’ Tea and Potions. The white haired mage sat in front of his shop, carving a small wooden sculpture of a lion. Upon seeing Forte, he placed the half finished carving in his pocket and stood up to greet his protégé.
“Nice and early. You have the makings of an exceptional student already,” he boasted.
Forte grinned, and followed Bumbus to a man with a horse drawn carriage.
“I ordered a carriage. The Academy is a few hours ride from the capital. We will be there by noon.”
They boarded the carriage and departed from Burstranton. The carriage left through the city’s elaborate western gate.
“Since you are the former headmaster of the Academy, should I call you headmaster?” asked Forte.
The elderly mage cracked open a hefty tome titled Beasts of Mythology as he responded. “No, because I no longer hold the title. Simply call me Bumbus, or Alfred, whichever you prefer. The current headmaster is headmaster Figgis, one of my old colleagues. Look for him if you run into any trouble.”
Forte looked out the window. They were traveling west of the capital, through hills and valleys.
“Can I ask you about magic?” he inquired.
Alfred Bumbus’ face lit up delight. “Ask away, my boy.”
Forte fidgeted in his seat. “I have used magic before, but I still don’t quite understand it. What is magic? How come some people can use it, and most people can’t?”
Bumbus responded. “Anyone can be trained to use magic. How well they use it, well, that’s a different story. Magic is simply a conversion of energy, directed and manipulated by a mage to produce—”
“But if anyone can use magic, how can you tell that I have great potential? How am I different from the others?” asked Forte with a frown.
Bumbus’ expression darkened. “I have seen many mages in my years. Some excellent, some not so. It’s a shame that so many of the exceptional mages I’ve had the pleasure of knowing began dabbling with dark magic. But that is besides the point. I have seen many mages in my time, and have developed quite an eye for spotting talent. And you, my boy, have tremendous talent.”
The carriage bumped, as they began traveling up a hill. The sun had nearly risen full over the hilly plains. There was countryside as far as the eye could say.
Forte wavered, and then asked. “Sir, what is dark magic?”
Bumbus stared into Forte’s eyes, as he closed his tome and set it aside. His expression was serious.
“You ask me a difficult question, Forte,” he responded. The elderly mage hesitated for a moment, and then continued. “Dark magic uses alternate sources of energy and mediums, instead of stamina and a mage. The reason why it is called dark magic, is because the sources of energy are terrible. Terrible! Blood, life, flesh—these are the items that fuel dark magic.”
The elderly mage sighed. “I lost many friends that way. In their lust for power, they reached for dark magic. Some even searched for the four seals of dark magic. Alastar Sinclair’s ring. Elmund Motley’s amulet. The elven king Rotterly Ealdwin’s locket. And of course, Ismas’ thorny crown…”
Forte looked at Bumbus, who seemed particularly melancholy. The road was bumpy, as the carriage bumped and skipped.
Bumbus continued to mutter. “My friends… they lost themselves in the tales, tales that whoever possessed all four would be invincible on the battlefield. Of course, the items have been lost over the course of centuries. It is a fool’s dream to chase them… Ah, we have arrived.”
The outline of a haunting castle-like structure came into sight. Six large towers shot up into the sky, and the courtyard seemed endless. Forte stepped out of the carriage, and was greeted by a servant, who helped him out and took his bags. He hadn’t experienced such pampering in a long time—it felt new.
Forte had expected a majestic Academy, but this was something else. The castle was intimidatingly large, and two fully armored knights guarded door with pole arms in hand. A marble sculpture of a falcon stood prominently in the middle of the courtyard, and above the gate was the Academy’s coat of arms, a falcon with its wings spread, clutching a willow branch in its legs.
A short man dressed in a flowing red robe walked out and greeted Forte.
“Welcome to the Academy,” said the man in the red robe. I am the current headmaster, headmaster Sigmore Figgis. I heard that you are an exceptional young talent, recommended by my dear old friend.”
Forte shook hands with the headmaster.
The headmaster walked up to Bumbus. “And of course, the famed Alfred Bumbus. I see you have been well!”
Bumbus adjusted his spectacles. “I am well indeed. But I must get going now, my shop needs me. I leave Forte to your capable hands.”
With a wave, Bumbus boarded the carriage again and left the Academy.
Figgis patted Forte on his shoulder. “Unfortunately, I am also a busy man. My assistant will be here soon. Her name is Geneva Floren. She will show you around the grounds.”
Forte bowed slightly. “Thank you, headmaster.”
The headmaster returned the bow, and walked back into the Academy, and ascended a flight of stairs. Forte waited for a few moments, and then saw a beautiful woman in a long, dark blue robe walk towards him.
“And you must be Forte Minot. Forte… we haven’t had a student with that name in quite a while. Follow me,” she said.
Forte passed the guards and entered the long hallway. Suits of armor lined the halls, and in between were countless doors. Six sets of staircases sat in the corners of the hall.
“The stair cases lead to your dormitory towers. Your dormitory is in the sixth tower, third room. I will show you there briefly, after we have toured the premises.”
They walked past a few classrooms, and reached an impressively large dining hall. It was empty.
“You will eat here between classes. Lunch is served at noon, and dinner at six. Curfew for fourth-year students is ten.”
Forte Motley followed the headmaster’s assistant outside, to a large open field. He spotted a few students sparring with wooden swords, and others practicing magic under the guidance of a professor.
“This is the courtyard, where you will have your combat and practical magic lessons. Remember, sparring between students is not allowed unless observed by a professor.”
Forte glanced at the older students practicing magic. A few of them seemed to have a solid grasp on casting combat spells, while the rest struggled to cast a simple wind spell. Just a handful of them were threats to him, despite being older.
A few older students strolling in the courtyard noticed Forte.
“Oy, it’s the poor boy!”
“You mean the ‘special’ one?”
“How does it feel living in poverty, having a scholarship?”
“Suck on this!”
One of the older students threw a handful of mud at Forte, which landed on his face.
Geneva Floren scowled and ran after them. “Hey!”
Another older student chucked a rock at Forte, which he dodged. The group ran away jeering.
Forte wiped off the mud off his face with his sleeve, wincing.
“Please forgive them, Forte. I will see to it that they are punished afterwards.”
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” replied Forte. He had to lay low for now, he thought. They visited the common room next. Students lounged on plush coaches and chatted, as tea cups and books levitated in the air. Some of the students began whispering to each other and started glaring at him intently.
Finally, they left the common room and headed to the staircase leading to the sixth tower, a boy’s dormitory tower. The long, curving stairs were lined with intimidating stone busts of animals. They passed by a stone bear, and then a lion. After what seemed like an eternity, they reached the first set of rooms, although a staircase lead further up. Forte saw his bags in front of a room, which he presumed was room three.
“Those are your belongings. To open the door to your room, simply hold the handle and repeat the password, which is truffles. And here is where I leave you. Come down tomorrow for breakfast, and you will be initiated.”
Geneva twirled back towards the stairs and walked away, her dark blue robe and long black hair flowing behind her. Forte stood in the hallway, dazed. He picked up his bags, and walked to room three, whispering the password truffles to the door. The lock mechanism clicked open, and Forte pushed open the door. The room was cramped and less impressive than he thought, with a pair of desks, beds, and a large closet. Sitting on one of the beds was a brown-red haired boy eating a crispy snack. He startled at Forte’s sudden entrance, then broke into a smile.
“You’re the new transfer, Forte Minot right? My name’s Seamus Toussaint,” he said, feet dangling from his chair.
Forte moved his bags next to his bag and collapsed on the bed. “That’s the nicest greeting I’ve gotten all day.”
Seamus grinned, crunching on his snack. “I’m not like the others. A lot of the kids here are stuck up. I get bullied sometimes too, but eventually you’ll get used to it.”
He chomped down the rest of his snack. “We gotta stick together.”
Forte laughed. “Right.”
Forte got out of bed and began unpacking his belongings. A small cauldron, three textbooks, his gravitite sword, his amulet, and his clothing were emptied out form his bags.
Seamus’ eyes widened as Forte pulled out his gravitite sword.
“Is that… is that sword? Where’d you get one like that? Cool!” he exclaimed.
“It’s just a worn iron sword. Got it from my father,” Forte lied.
Seamus leapt out of bed. “Can I see it?”
Forte passed the gravitite sword to Seamus. “Sure.”
Seamus grasped the gravitite sword, and immediately dropped it on the ground with a loud clank. “Sorry about that. It’s really heavy!”
Forte chuckled, and retrieved his sword. He hid his amulet of darkness inside the dresser, wrapped in a shirt, and then put on his mage robes and pointed hat.
A loud bell rang from the courtyard.
“You hear that? That’s dinner. Let’s head down. And lose the hat, no hats in the dining hall,” said Seamus as he hurriedly put on his shoes.
Forte followed Seamus out the door, as a few students exited their rooms along them.
“Outta my way,” said a fat teenager, as he shoved aside Seamus and Forte. Forte clenched his fist, but then held back at the last moment. He did not want to risk expulsion.
Seamus and Forte made their way down through the winding staircase, to the dining hall. Dinner was served buffet style, which seemed rather sloppy for a high end Academy. Forte believed that it was done intentionally to keep the students somewhat humble.
Students stared and whispered as Forte walked by them, although a girl giggled as he passed and caught a glance of her. After collecting his food, Forte sat down at one of tables. Even though the dining hall was crowded, all the students seemed to avoid the table he sat down at, except Seamus, who sat down across from him with a plate full of sprouts, and nothing else.
“Can you believe he got roomed with Seamus Touissant? That weird kid?” a girl gossiped to her friend.
Seamus whispered to Forte. “Don’t mind them, they always do this.”
Forte nodded, and began to eat his roasted fish and carrot. As they dined, the headmaster walked into the hall and stepped up to a platform.
“As you can see, we have a new transfer student, Forte Minot. Forte, please stand.”
Forte stood somewhat nervously, as the hall fell silent with the exception of a few jeers. A student from a few tables down hurled a chicken leg at Forte.
“Ariz!” shouted the headmaster, as the chicken leg froze in mid air and then returned to the student’s plate. “See me in my office afterwards, Ferguson. We do not tolerate such behavior in the Academy.”
Ferguson sulked in his chair.
“Treat your fellow students nicely. And Forte, please see me in my office tomorrow after breakfast,” said the robed headmaster, as he stepped back off the platform and walked out of the dining hall.
Forte finished dinner, and headed upstairs with Seamus through a few hisses and taunts. They played cards until curfew, and then settled in for the night.
They woke up the next morning to the sound of the breakfast bell, and ate a breakfast of eggs and ham. Again, no one sat near Forte.
Forte turned to Seamus after finishing his breakfast. “Where is the headmaster’s office?”
Seamus pointed towards the direction of the hall, continuing to wolf down bits of egg as he spoke. “First tower.”
Forte stood up and headed towards first tower. A boy stuck out his leg to trip Forte, causing him to fall flat on his face. He groaned, and saw it was Ferguson. He got back up and continued walking towards the stairs. The stairs to the first tower seemed to be even longer than the stairs in sixth tower, and Forte was panting for breath as he reached the top. He knocked on the door.
“Come in,” said the headmaster.
Forte walked in, and was instantly reminded of Bumbus’ tea and potions shop, except instead of tea, there were books, tomes, and scrolls lying about everywhere. The headmaster was penning a parchment. He looked up.
“We need to register you for classes, Forte. It is not often that this Academy receives transfers, rarer still that those transfers have never been formally taught magic.”
He handed Forte the parchment with a peculiar glint in his eyes. “These are your class assignments. Let me know if you find them… too challenging.”
Forte glanced at the parchment. “History of the Varian Continent, Intermediate Potioneering, Intermediate Levitation, Basic Combat Magic, and Basic Elemental Magic.”
He looked at the schedules, and saw that his history class was beginning in ten minutes.
Headmaster Figgis clapped his hands. “Hurry.”
Author: Been getting piss poor reviews/ratings recently citing lack of emotional tension and characterization. Hopefully this chapter improves upon that… Let me know. I care somewhat about ratings, but more importantly would like to improve my writing.