Sunday, September 27, 2015

The University

First, we sensed a change in the towns. They became slightly wealthier as we progressed. You could tell from the dress, from the style of home. Farmers and tanners gave way to apothecaries and sorcerers. More educated too. You could tell that from the manner of speaking.
The towns became more magical. We started to see thatch roofs enchanted to keep from burning. Coats enchanted not to wear. Recreational psychotropic potions.
Eventually, we started to notice book shops. Stores selling larkweed, and waterstones, and all the other accouterments of sorcery. We started to see the staffs of sorcerers, and the rings of students. And then, as we reached the top of a hill, we saw the Green Tower.
It was enormous. Kings would feel privileged to live in homes a tenth the size. Moving up and down the Tower's exterior, platforms large enough to lie down on ferried students to their classes. Elevators, we called them. Their maintenance was one of the foremost duties of the School of Charms. The School took its job seriously. It had been decades since the last time one of the floating stone rooms had crashed into the ground. And Master of Charms responsible for overseeing the elevator had been stripped of his title within the month.
We passed the city of Allus. Allus and Pire were the two greatest cities which had grown in the shadow of the Tower. Each was a city of thousands of residents. It was said that Allus had more Etoran sorcerers than any other city in the world, and that the Prince of Pire had more sorcerers in his court than the King of Irin.
As we grew closer to the tower, we could see the vents. Fumes from potions, channeled into the sky. A wagon full of cloaks passed us, bound to cloth the next generation of sorcerers. We wandered through the new homes of students. The larger homes of the Masters. Those who didn't live in the Tower, that is.
Finally, we reached the base. The bottom of the world's most magnificent building.  We boarded an elevator. With us were two blue-robed individuals. Judging by their age, and their conversation, I would guess second year students of Physik. There was also an, older man. I vaguely recognized him. Was he a Master of Enchantment?
"Well," Dran said. "Now we find out if I'm afraid of heights."
"Don't worry," Dragoneyes chimed in, "Amniel got over it in just a few years."
The Tower was divided into eight shafts, arranged around a central courtyard. Each was a little over twenty paces across. They were all equipped with stairs. I wondered about that, as we rose into the air. Who built the Tower? And why did they find it desirable to walk up fifty stories worth of stairs?
"Hypothetically speaking," Dran asked, "if someone were to spit off the side..."
"There's a charm to catch anything falling off the elevator," the Master said. "I'm not sure if it would affect your spittle."
"Oh," Dran said. He spat off the side. "In case you were curious, my spittle was indeed affected." Dran spent the remainder of the ride casting spells on his own spit, trying to make it fall to the ground.
I checked on my sister. She seemed rather unimpressed by the most magnificent structure in the world. She barely glanced at the center of all magical learning. I suspected that with her gift, she had seen it all before.
We reached the thirty-fourth floor of the Anitax shaft. Like generations of great sorcerers before us, we entered through the window. "Three floors down from us, if I recall correctly," I said.
Like all the floors of the Tower, thirty-one Anitax had initially been one large chamber. It was exceptional in that it had remained that way. While most of the floors had been divided into smaller offices, or residences for students, filled with man-made walls, thirty-one Anitax belonged to one man. The Archmage. Taerin of the Valley. He had risen up from a small village in Irin. Through shear force of will, he had made his way to the University, and forced his way through six years of classes. He worked closely with Ar-Alam, and was about to be appointed a Master of Naming, when he left. He lived in the forest. He ran with the wolves, and communed with the True Names of clay and stone. Eventually, he returned, almost feral, dressed in rags, saying he was ready to be a Master. The University thought differently.
So Taerin went out into the world of men. He advised kings, and rescued sorcerers from the Inquisition in Etor. He married, and had three children. He returned to the University, wearing much nicer clothes, and found new employment. He tried not to spend more than a few days a year buried underground letting the smell of the soil fill his nostrils. And became the first Archmage in almost a century not to be born into a noble family.
And while he only had one room, it was, to be perfectly clear, a very nice room. It had paintings of battles and previous Archmages and famous moments in the history of magic. It had no fewer than seven bookshelves. It had all of the usual apparatus of magic. And it had a mage who very much valued his work.
"Excuse me," said Taerin of the Valley, not looking up from his desk. "This is my office. Classes are two floors down."

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