It took three days for Catori to find us trainers and the right combination of people to bring the right kind of magic for the spell we needed. There was one witch, one wizard, two mages, a warlock, a sorcerer and a sorceress, a summoner, two enchantresses, an enchanter, a magician, and a catalyst.
"Me?" I said, my mouth dropping open. "I don't know how to be a catalyst- what do I do?"
"Then listen closely because you have to do this perfectly. You stand in the circle the magician has drawn. Then the witch and wizard will give you a potion to drink- make sure you drink it all before the mages' walls are up, but after the sorcerer invokes the spirit of the past. Then the sorceress will invoke the spirit of the future, and the summoner will call forth the master of time," Catori explained.
"What about the enchanters?" I asked nervously.
"They are the anchors. They will hold the spell, past, present, and future in place once time freezes. After the spirits are invoked, the trainers will join you in the circle. You'll have a month to train before any time passes in this world- you're a virgin, right?"
Her question caught me off guard. "Yes!" I squeaked as my face grew hot.
She chuckled. "Just making sure. Didn't want to be sucked into a black hole or anything due to an oversight."
My eyes widened in panic. "So if this goes wrong-"
"We could be lost in time, we could die, the entire world could disappear- but that just makes it more exciting. Nobody's ever done a spell of such magnitude, and we're all looking forward to the experience."
I just gaped at her. The people in this world must be born mad.
The casting was to take place in the evening, when the suns were not too low to see nor too high to be hot, on a farm outside the town. We all headed there now, and the air was full with the buzz of excited voices. I looked up at Ardon as he walked beside me, a slight smile on his face as he listened to the witch and summoner argue about whose craft was better. I reached out shyly and took his hand. He looked at me and his smile grew. "It'll be okay, little fire," he said, trying to reassure me. "You'll do just fine and we'll be off after Brannagh in no time." He squeezed my hand and I felt calmer as we reached the circle.
"Saoirse," Cheveyo called. I stepped forward into the design in the dirt, careful not to smudge any of the lines. Once I was there, the wizard stepped forward to hand me a gourd. Did I start drinking now? I looked to Catori in slight panic, and she nodded encouragingly. The mages started to hum and the sorcerer began to chant. I uncorked the gourd and gagged at the smell, but I choked it down, waiting to finish the last swallow. The sorcerer finished and a faint shimmer grew in my peripheral. I turned my head and swallowed the last of the nasty concoction as the sorceress began to chant and a shimmer grew in front of me. The mages had finished humming now and the summoner lifted her arms and began to sing, her beautiful voice echoing through the field.
It's almost over, I kept telling myself as I closed my eyes and tried to hold the potion down. The ground seemed to crumble beneath me and I struggled to stay on my feet. I opened my eyes a crack when I felt an arm around me and noticed that the others had joined me in the circle now. I leaned on Ardon as the summoner's final notes piped through the breeze and strangest man appeared before her. He looked so ageless. His body was young and so was his face, but his eyes were more ancient than I could ever compare. As I watched, he seemed to grow old before my eyes and young again. The only constant was his impossibly dark eyes that seemed to bore right through me. I shut my own eyes, wishing for everything to be over and in a few moments, the world was still.
I opened my eyes and gazed into Ardon's face. He was so strangely still, I thought for a moment the spell had gone wrong and he was frozen, but he blinked and looked at me, a crooked grin on his face. We were in the same clearing, but everything was still. No wind blowing, no animal sounds, no movement anywhere except for the six of us in the circle.
Katsuo, our sword trainer, laughed out loud. "That was interesting," he said, still chuckling. He stepped gingerly out of the circle and looked about him at the frozen Magi around us. "Well, why don't I take you first, boy?" he said to Ardon. He turned to me. "My sister can take you to the archery range. Yumiko?"
The archer nodded at me. "Follow, please," she said, turning to go behind the barn where we had set up targets earlier that day. I followed her obediently and grimaced a goodbye to Ardon, who waved cheerfully back as he followed Katsuo to a fenced in area in the opposite direction.
"What are we supposed to do?" I heard Beniamino, our magic teacher, grumble as we walked away. I was too far away to hear the response of Grigori, our knife and hand-to-hand teacher.
"Focus," Yumiko commanded. She handed me a quiver of arrows and helped me situate it before she taught me to string a bow. I could already tell I wasn't going to be good at this. My hands were not steady, and my aim was questionable. My arms were short. I should have been able to pull the string back to my ear, but I could barely get it to my nose before my arms started to tremble. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and loosed.
Yumiko cleared her throat. "Eyes open," she said. "Again."
This woman was not one for words. I would shoot, she would correct my stance or grip, and then she would say again. For over an hour, she drilled me through the basics until I could barely lift my arms. I had only hit the target once, and that had been when she aimed me herself. "Go to Beniamino," she finally said. I thrust my bow and quiver into her arms and fled to the farmhouse to find the magi. He and Katsuo were sitting at the scrubbed wooden table in the middle of the kitchen, laughing and joking as they ate sweet bread with apple butter. I paused in the doorway, embarrassed to interrupt them.
"You are here for the sword?" Katsuo asked brightly.
I shook my head in terror. There was no way I could lift a sword after Yumiko's torture. He laughed and kicked Beniamino under the table, who turned to me with delight. "She's mine, now- ha! I'll have something to do. Come, bambina, we will make the earth shake and the spirits moan!"
Beniamino grabbed my hand and towed me out of the farm house. "We will go by the river; we will find the quiet inside before we try to figure out what you are." He let go of my hand and I followed his gangly form to the river on the other side of the farm. When we got to the river's edge, he parked himself on a rock and removed his sandals. "Sit! Sit!" he said excitedly, sticking his feet in the water.
Well, I sat, sat on another slab of stone, removing my stockings and boots to slip my feet in the river. "What now?" I asked.
"We sit here," he said, shoving his spectacles back into place. "We sit here and we find the quiet within ourselves. If you can't find a spark, that means you're a witch or a wizard- it's not the most exciting talent, but you may find it useful. If you do feel a spark, we will then determine just where your path is laid out. I'm betting four siliqua that you're an enchantress," he added smugly. "Yumiko's betting witch, Grigorii is betting summoner- you should be so lucky- Ardon's betting mage, and Katsuo is betting warlock."
"Ardon's betting?" I asked with a frown. "I'm sorry, can you please explain the differences?"
"This is good, good pupils ask questions. Maybe I should have bet mage," he chuckled. "Alright, so witches and wizards- they have very little magic, just enough to make things react with each other in a magical way. They deal mostly in potions and almost anyone can be a witch or wizard because almost everyone is born with at least a seed of magic.
"A warlock is a little more interesting. They have a bit more magic and generally prefer the darker arts- necromancy, death, destructive magic and the like. Sorcerers and sorceresses deal with the spirit world, sometimes at their own risk. They can call forth the souls of the dead or the spirit of a thing to do their bidding. Living things have souls, but everything has a spirit, at least to a sorcerer. You might call it the essence of a thing- what makes an object unique. I think it's a kind of residue from the spirit and soul of the body that has handled it. If you were to call forth the spirit of a hammer from Bob the Blacksmith, for example, it would look completely different than an identical hammer from Bill the Blacksmith.
"Next would be the magician- there's really not much to say there. A magician is a well studied person with enough magic to do a small conjuring, but generally they are a part of something, like today. They drew the required circle because no one else makes a study of it. Think of a magician as an assistant. If one of the others needs an obscure piece of knowledge, they would go to the magician for the formula...or to entertain their children.
"Now, then we get to the big three. Enchanters, mages, and summoners have the greatest amount of power, but differently. An enchanter- or enchantress- is sort of like me, a jack-of-all-trades. There is very little that is beyond them, but their power is more easily focused on living things. Their power responds to animals and people easily, giving them an edge in relations. If they are strong enough, they can make creatures do their bidding, though the stronger the mind and magic of the animal in question is in direct relation to how easily they will bend to a sorcerer's will.
"Mages are a little more powerful than sorcerers and much more flexible, in a way. They control things like the elements. A mage can make the river part for him or open a hole in the earth; a mage can make the plants grow like mad or make the wind blow a tree to pieces. For a mage, it's all in how you look at a problem and how your power speaks through you. For example, I know a very powerful mage whose power speaks only through fish. It was incredibly helpful when a storm came and drove them all away. He just asked them back and the fishermen brought in a full net that day to feed the town. Of course, then there are the uncommon ones who can do it all, talk to the fish, make the grass grow, stop the rain.
"Rarest of all, though equal in power to the mage, is the summoner. Summoner's have the unique ability- though similar, in fact, to the sorcerer- to call forth entities from the void, or other worlds. The more powerful the summoner, the stronger the entity she can call and the better she can control it. The biggest difference between a summoner and a sorcerer is a summoner calls forth the physical, what exists in reality- albeit a different one at times- while a sorcerer conjures from the metaphysical. It takes great strength to call upon what is real and bring it to order.
"There, now- any questions?"