Guy Fox Day, 6099 RTR (4 Nov 1999) Envoy is tested at the College Esoterica in the Sphere of Earth.
(College Esoterica) (Envoy) (Rephidim) (Spheres of Magic)
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School of Earth
The School of Earth is a building made of stone and wood – the wood being of the living variety, as massive trees twist together and form towers and parapets, and vines cling to the roughly hewn stone walls. The floors are covered with packed wood chips or – on the ground level – mossy earth.

High up at the top of one of the tree-towers growing at the corners of the building, those present have an Eeee's eye view of the campus and of the surrounding Scholars' Quarter. Presently, the only persons present are Envoy, the Earth Mage Iona, and another, older Earth Mage.

The Aeolun runs one of her hands appreciatively along the living wood of the tower. "This place is beautiful… "

This third person present is a Jupani advanced in years, with a stooped back, and a long, shaggy beard, viewing the world through squinted eyes and glass spectacles. He wears robes of earthy orange and deep brown, trimmed in forest green, and walks with the aid of a gnarled staff that bears green leaves and a flower at the top.

The mage smiles. "Welcome, Miss Envoy of Lothrhyn. I have read of the results of your initial tests, and I look forward to seeing how you will perform tonight."

Envoy comes out of her reverie and bows to the elder Mage. "Thank you sir. I will do my best not to disappoint you."

The mage nods. "I am Zeron … of the Sphere of Earth, naturally. I wish to test your potential a bit more, with some exercises that cover some of the different aspects of Earth."

"I am honored to be tested," Envoy replies, smiling and standing respectfully. "What do you want me to do?"

Zeron nods. "Well … I'll first explain what I'm attempting to cover. As you may already know, magic as we know it is divided up into twelve Spheres of influence, at least as the Collegia Esoterica reckons it. The powers of each of these Spheres are not wholly unique – After all, an Air Mage, a Water Mage, and a Chaos Mage all have the potential of creating a storm … and a particularly clever Fire Mage might be able to cause it to rain by producing a lot of smoke."

Zeron says, "The Sphere of Earth is one of the Elemental Spheres … one of those that deal directly with the physical elements. Within the scope of this Sphere, an Earth Mage can affect plant life and wood, stone, metal, and dirt … all associated with the earth."

Envoy nods attentively, and asks, "Gravity and electromagnetic forces as well?"

Zeron smirks. "There are some more powerful rituals dealing with gravity, to a limited extent. You have a bit of the Technopriest in you, yes? I'm afraid that magic isn't raw manipulation of the basic forces of nature. Not truly."

Zeron says, "Consider Shadow Magic. Some think that it has to do with creating darkness. Perhaps. But since when can darkness be animated, and how can a creature of shadow actually go out and spy on someone, then report back to its master? How can shadow – the absence of light – be considered a substance?"

The Aeolun's brow furrows as she considers the question. "It's not shadow then, but a projection of the Mage's will?"

The old mage nods, "The will of the mage … and the will of Magic. Magic is not science. If anything, it is an art, and our understanding of it shall never be complete, I fear. In the course of your studies, you are likely to develop your own style of spell-casting … and perhaps even to develop spells unique to yourself. Perhaps these might expand the repertoire of the Earth Sphere as a whole."

Envoy smiles. "I would hope so. Part of my purpose is to expand knowledge."

"The Spheres are our understanding of magic. Why twelve? Because that is what we have come to understand, and how magic seems to divide itself most easily. But is there anything special … infinite … about that particular number, or this particular collection of Spheres we have? Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Light, Shadow, Mind, Dream, Spirit, Chaos, Illusion, Life? No, I do not believe so. Many of the spells you will learn have particular chants to them, or peculiar – and even very specific – effects." The mage pauses, sitting down on a wooden "bench" built into the tree-tower. "Sometimes, we learn magic by accident."

"The words we say, the movement of our hands, the drawings of chalk … there is nothing inherently magical about these things. If an automaton were to perfectly replicate the actions of a mage, it would not produce magic. If you were to perfectly mimic the words of a chant, you would not create magic. The chants, the rituals, the signs … they are all tools. Templates for the mind," the mage says.

Envoy grins! A garden!"Is accident different than experimentation?" Envoy asks, curious.

The mage smirks. "Not always. Experimentation and accident are closely related. But sometimes a miscast spell that creates odd effects … just might become a new spell, when you wish to replicate those 'side effects'."

The mage continues, "Now then. I have a tendency to ramble … and I can't possibly tell you everything I know about magic in a single night. Even if I could, you'd be hard pressed to make sense of it all. Let's get back to the Sphere of Earth. Now then … the exact boundaries of what spells fit in the Sphere of Earth are, admittedly, somewhat arbitrary. But they are based on traditions dating back a very long time. Earth Mages are capable of a wide range of powers, and can be very versatile, even though our spells may not be as flashy as those of Fire, or as lucrative in application as those of Life or Air."

"In fact, given the breadth of this Sphere, some mages choose to specialize in smaller parts – 'sub-Spheres' – of Earth Magic. We're going to try examples from each of those 'sub-Spheres' tonight … and see if you might have any special affinity with any of them, or with Earth Magic as a whole." The mage shifts his hold on his staff. "Those sub-Spheres would be Nature, Stone, Metal, and Soil."

Envoy nods, and says, "I think I'm ready then."

"How we're going to do this," says the old mage, "is much like you did in your earlier test. I have already prepared this area … 'charged it up', so to speak … and I will be here to assist. Essentially, we will be using the magical energy channeled by myself … but it will be going through you to direct it."

Zeron lifts his staff, using it to gesture at a pile of stones. "Arrange these in a circle around you." The stones are of many colors, some translucent, some solid, but none of them precious, and each of the pebbles is smoothand shiny, small enough to easily fit in Envoy's palm. "It might be a plain circle … or a pattern. Whatever you envision as a structure of stability, large enough for you to sit in the center of."

The old mage says, "Find yourself a place to be seated." He pats the packed wood-shaving ground beneath him. Other parts of the floor, however, are solid, flat wood, or else earth with moss or grass or clover growing on it. There's also a flat rock slab in one corner, also large enough to set up on.

Envoy kneels down to arrange the stones into a circle, trying to balance them by weight and appearance, after choosing a spot where several different regions of the floor come together.

The old mage watches, clasping his hands together atop the staff and leaning his chin against them. "Just let me know when you're ready to continue."

The Aeolun settles into a lotus position within her circle, and relaxes her breathing. "All right," she says. "I'm ready to go on."

The mage nods, and begins to mutter under his breath, closing his eyes. Then, he opens them again, and fishes around in his pouch. He produces a little blue seed and tosses it over to land on a section of soil in front of Envoy.

The mage says, "I'm going to provide magical energy, and Iona will assist. I've told you nothing about this seed or what it can grow into. I'd like to see what you can do with it. Go ahead and try … you may push against a wall, and go no further. That is quite all right. It's part of the learning process. Just explore and see where you can go with this."

The old mage adds, "You will need to visualize in order to try to direct the magic. With any luck, your visualization will become instructions for whatever is in this little seed."

Envoy gazes at the seed, and thinks about plants. From her own past, she calls up memories of the forest around Lothrhyn, of the way her own roots mingled with those of the trees. She listens to the sound of her own blood, imagining it to be the xylem and flowen of one of those trees. Slow, but powerful. Finally, she sings a low, rumbling tone to express her sense of that strength, laying the groundwork for her vision of a tree.

Sometime sings back to Envoy, though not a sound she can hear in her ears. It's … it's that strange sense that was awakened by the Deus ex Machina. It's the seed. It's responding. It's listening to her dreams.

Visualizing further, Envoy imagines a very particular sort of tree… one of the rock-clinging bonsai trees she knew. To reflect her own influence, however, she sees it as being pale-barked, with fine green-gold leaves. Maintaining the feeling of strength, she tries to layer this new vision on top of it, expressing it with her second voice as a rising, faster cadence that grows in complexity… much as she sees the branches of her imaginary tree splitting from the trunk into branches, then twigs, then leaves.

The shifting of leaves and the cracking of wood reaches Envoy's ears – her real ears – and in her sense of magic, she can feel the seed expanding, trying to obey her wishes.

Trying to hold the vision in her mind, Envoy still knows that a tree doesn't stand alone. In a real forest, there is a fine network of subsurface fungus that connects the roots of the trees, exchanging nutrients in a symbiotic flow. She imagines tendrils of magic reaching out from herself to the roots of the tree, providing the energy it needs to grow, and the conduit to tell her what it needs in return.

There's a faint vibration that Envoy can feel … can sense … in the packed soil forming part of the roof of this tower. Something's moving. Growing.

Envoy tries to reinforce the image more, seeing it as part of a garden, with running water, wind and sunlight. She tries to express this in her song as well, trying to give the tree a sense of place and connectivity.

The growing plant responds with a sensation of warmth and life.

Opening her eyes, the Aeolun hopes to guide the vision further by watching the progress of the growth.

A miniature tree, only a foot tall, is growing from the packed earth in front of Envoy. It has pale bark and tiny green-gold leaves, and looks to be firmly rooted in the soil where it grows.

Upon seeing this, Envoy puts a burst of emotion into both her song and the flow to the tree, one of affectionate joy!

In that other sense, the tree sings back to Envoy … and then … the song quiets … though Envoy can somehow still sense the life of the tree she has helped to shape.

"Very impressive," says Mage Zeron. "You are decisive and specific. Many beginning mages, when given such open instructions, are crippled by indecision, unsure of just what to do with their magic."

Envoy slows her song, slowly letting go of the connection to the tree. Finally, she quietly says, "Thank you."

"You've put quite a great deal of energy into this, though," the mage notes. "How are you holding up? If you do not feel able to continue at this point, and wish to pick up later, it will not reflect poorly on you. I am, in fact, surprised that you put this much effort into your first attempt. If, however, you are ready to continue, the next exercise will be in the sub-Sphere of Stone."

Mage Iona looks at the little bonsai tree, and smiles at Envoy. She says nothing, but her eyes are full of praise.

Envoy takes a few deep breaths. "It's hard not to invest one's own energy into life." After a few more moments of relaxing, she says, "I think I'd like to try stone now."

The mage nods. "Well, this will be different. You cannot commune with stone in the same way that you can with plants. Stone is, after all, not alive. However, all of Sinai is suffused with magic, and so, therefore, there is a sort of 'life' that can be found, even in stones. Let us see what you can do with it." With that, he digs around in his sack, and pulls out a lumpy-looking rock, about the size of a fist, dull gray in color, but with veins of darker and lighter striations. The lighter striations look faintly translucent.

Zeron tosses the rock to land on the slab of rock, just within arm's reach of Envoy, but outside of her circle of pebbles.

Envoy looks at the stone until she has it thoroughly memorized. At least, the parts she can see.

Zeron nods, and goes back to clasping his hands together about the top of the staff, and leaning on his hands with his chin, watching the rock – and Envoy – intently.

Visualizing the stone, Envoy sees it not as an object, but as a knot. Separate minerals fused together, a confusion of crystals. She focuses on the thickest of the crystal strands, the one that resembles quartz. With her eyes open this time, she tries to find the resonance, or feel, of that mineral. She sings out a low tone again, an expression of her attempt to probe the stone with vibrations of magic, beginning with the longer wavelengths.

As Envoy shifts through the wavelengths, in voice and in her reaching out through magic, the "echo" from the stone builds in intensity … until she reaches a point of resonance with the crystal of the rock.

Envoy memorizes the sense of the resonance, treating it like a sound. Closing her eyes now, she starts again with the lower frequencies… but this time her goal is to find the overall resonance of the entire stone.

This probing continues, as Envoy finds the resonance points of each mineral comprising the stone … and that of the stone itself.

At last, Envoy has each resonance point clear in her mind.

Tuning out the rest of her body, Envoy focuses on the two different songs. In her mind, the stone becomes a waveform, and this she sings as best she can. Slowly, however, she alters the song, as she mentally subtracts the waveform of the clear crystal. To help, she sings the second song on top of the first, adjusting the original one until the combined tone matches that of the whole. Then, she begins to fade out the second one, that of the translucent crystal.

Harmonizing "voices" echo, carrying with them a hint of some sort of information, some sort of feedback from the stone … but the nuances do not generate any sensations or images. Any information contained in them is beyond Envoy's ability to process meaningfully … at this time.

Envoy doesn't let the feedback distract her, focusing even more intently on separating one resonance from the other. Her voices rise in volume with the effort.

The second resonance gradually fades out.

The Aeolun's song comes to a scratchy halt, as her voice finally gives out. It takes another moment for her vision to clear, and yet another after that for her to realize her eyes are open as she lets the outside world reassert itself on her awareness.

The stone is lying in two pieces, split along the vein of quartz crystal, in front of Envoy.

Reaching out beyond the circle of pebbles, Envoy touches the stone with a slightly numb finger to make sure it's real. "I didn't know it would be this draining. Even healing from being mauled wasn't so exhausting," she says.

The stone is quite solid, and it gives Envoy a faint tingling sensation – not by touch, but by a magical sense that is reinforced when she physically touches the stone.

The old mage nods. "Yes, it takes practice. There is a certain endurance you have to work up – not an endurance of the body, but, as you might say, of the spirit … or whatever it is that is the part of us that works magic."

Envoy nods slowly. "Magic is hard when you only have one brain."

The mage laughs. "Yes … yes, that it is. Well … I should like to see you try the other tests I have in mind, when you've had a chance to recover … but I think we've already demonstrated that you at least have some affinity with at least one of the sub-Spheres of Earth, and capability in another."

"I think I've seen enough," continues the old wolf, "to see that you would make a good Apprentice of the Sphere of Earth. Does that interest you, Miss Envoy of Lothrhyn?"

Smiling, Envoy says, "Oh yes, Mage Zeron!" She looks back at the little bonsai tree, and feels some of her fogginess clear up. "I'd be a fool not to pursue it."

The old mage nods. "Well then … when will you be able to move your belongings to the dormitories of the School of Earth, and begin your studies?"

Envoy's face lights up, "Oh, right away sir! I only have a few pieces of clothing, and my Vykarin necklace… "

The mage nods. "We won't be assigning you permanent housing just yet … well, not that housing for an apprentice is ever permanent. For the time being, you'll be staying with Mage Iona, since she says she has the space. Once we have had time to further analyze your strengths, we'll better determine what part of the dormitories might be best suited to your needs as a developing student."

Mage Iona nods. "I'd be very pleased to have you as a guest. And we can find a place for your tree until you get your own garden."

Envoy smiles even wider than usual, and looks up to Iona. "I promise not to make any messes. Oh, a garden of my own?!"

Iona nods. "Yes … most Earth mages – except for those who specialize solely in Stone or Metal – have a garden of their own. It's a place to practice not only your magic, but to work on more mundane skills dealing with the earth, and living plants."

"I'll finally have something to connect me here," Envoy says, dreamily. "To this world."

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GMed by Greywolf

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