A nice happy story after my last one. A conceptual imagining of a world like our own where magic exists, but there is room for the same technological advances we had (albeit in an entirely different fashion to reality.)
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Hope you enjoy it,
“How can you tell when it’s working?” the student’s question for the the master showing his ability to sense the limitations of the ability.
“You can’t,” his master replies with his dry disinterested drone, “without an observer the effects are entirely unknowable. Magic is a risk, when you cast the spell you roll the dice.”
Julian internalises his reaction to the answer, knowing that Master Jaxon would have no interest in further discussing something he considered decided. He returns to the concentration exercises set by his master while he privately considers the shortcomings.
Seeking Master Jaxon’s tutelage had been a risk. In the past magic had been the most influential factor in world politics, the nobility sponsored at least one practitioner for appearances sake at the least. Users were treated with suspicion by the ordinary people, for the chaotic nature of magic could cause as much harm as good sometimes even in line with the intentions of the wielder. With the mystery that surrounded their powers their presence at the top of society was simply accepted. It was this privilege that Julian had sought, exchanging ordinary life for power. However change advances steadily in all things, technological advancements reduced the reliance for magic in daily life. Innovations in agricultural techniques and technology allowed the dense populations of cities to be sustained without the aid of witches’ weather magic. The scholastic monopoly of the church and magical lineages had been broken by private institutes that collected and distributed knowledge as their business. Even the very nature of the home had changed with the advent of roads and clean flowing water. While the raw power of magic in warfare and its miraculous capabilities when focused on a specific skill remained far beyond the reach of mundane people, the idea that the age of magic was coming to an end was growing in prominence.
The shortcomings of this spell further fuelled Julian’s concerns. He was learning how to apply the principle of magic as an change in natural energy to rendering a subject effectively invisible. By injecting magical energy into a system he could twist the motion of light to shift around a location. However two significant flaws limited the application of the principle. First when the vortex was created, if centred on the user they would be plunged into darkness. Since the light is prevented from touching him, his eyes are prevented from receiving any information from the world around them. Second if the vortex was imperfectly crafted, while still blinding him instead of being untouched by light the subject would simply appear as a chaotic knot in space. Once the spell was cast, the only way to tell if it was successful was to look at it. The intricacy and complexity involved in perfectly altering the passage of light to seamlessly replicate a straight line while curving was frustrating to Julian, to say the least.
After turning the visual information of the pebble in his hand into a headache inducing contortion for the umpteenth time, his frustration at last overwhelms his ability to focus. Failing to centre his breathing, the unexplainable sensation of grasping the power eluding him completely, he hurls the stone at the floor in anger receiving absolutely not reaction from his bored looking master.
“This is bullshit,” regretting the outburst as soon as it is voiced. Master Jaxon already leaving by the time the sentence is completed. Julian grits his teeth, cursing his metal weakness. His lessons ended the moment he removed himself from them, was Jaxon’s explanation. There would be no contact with his Master until the following day, regardless of whether he can regain his focus.
With most of the afternoon still available to him, Julian retrieved his pack from the base of the tree where he’d left it. Might as well find something useful to do with himself, trying to practice in this state would be simply a waste of time and energy. From the pack he pulled his coin purse; two gold medallions, twelve silver coins and a hand full of copper flakes to last the month. Not a sum to be sniffed at, but still an amount that would require careful consideration if it was to last comfortably. The biggest obstacle to using magic was stress, that’s why the greatest users were often seen as eccentric at best or more commonly dangerously unstable. Without an iron sense of purpose couple with relaxed indifference magic could be either unreachable or unstable. A user of his level was simply incapable of reaching for the power, a user with a more intrinsic sense of the power could still call it but without control. Those users were where the reputation for danger came from for magic.
Shouldering his pack, Julian made his way back along the path towards the city. It was a nice day, he should appreciate the mixed blessing his free time represented. He couldn’t properly afford to go drinking and besides it was too early in the afternoon. He didn’t have many friends in the city either, having come here entirely for an apprenticeship with a Master. There was little to do for fun in the city when you didn’t know anyone. Watching street performers or gambling held very little appeal to him. A meal enjoyed in the park the choice he settles on.
Watching the clouds roll by, Julian marvels at how differently the world seemed from when he was a boy. The stench of the city was almost unnoticeable, sanitation and hygiene for his grand-parents would have been like a fairy tale. Even in his short lifetime the change was noticeable. Perhaps this was the end of the age of magic, and if it was, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. With the serenity of that realisation he lifts a new stone in his hand, reaching out and gripping the power he casts it like a net over the stone and smiles as it seemingly vanishes from sight.
Magic would always have a place in the world. If the world didn’t need the power to find serenity, that doesn’t seem so bad.