Two Are Better Than One Chapter 13

Making Adjustments

By Samara Secor

“Since you are officially representing our guild now, we can’t have you running around looking like... er,” Orielle frowned as she looked at Arvad, trying to think of a word that fit the situation but wouldn’t be too offensive.

“Like a street rat, you mean?” Arvad had figured that the subject of his somewhat ragged attire would come up eventually, especially considering the way Edrea had made snide comments about it earlier. It wasn’t that he didn’t realize such clothing offended some people’s sensibilities. He just didn’t care. If he was comfortable, then that was all that really mattered. However, if it made his new boss happier, then he supposed that he could set aside some of that comfort in order not to be a total disgrace. “Yeah, I see your point, but... Wearing one of those funny robe things isn’t going to be a permanent part of the dress code for me, is it?”

“It’s only temporary. When the seamstress takes your measurements, you can tell her what style you would prefer to wear,” she said placatingly, though Orielle personally couldn’t see anything wrong with the robe she had brought. After all, her husband had worn it and looked positively dashing, thank you very much.

“All right, then. I guess I’ll be heading up to the office after I put this on... But, maybe I’d better have a bath first,” Arvad gave a lopsided grin and added, “That is, if you can spare me a few more minutes to get ready.”


Laticia sighed inwardly as the pile of books on the table in front of her continued growing until it reached a point that she imagined she could hear it groaning under all the stress. She swallowed, “Do I... really need to read all this?”

“Hm?” the red haired girl doling out the textbooks paused to push her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. “Well, eventually, you’ll have to. Since we’re already a quarter of the way through this term, copies of these books are usually in short supply. However, this year’s got more than the usual share of slackers. The slobs don’t even bother picking up their books ‘till two or three days before midterms. Then, they stay up all night long, trying to cram as much information as they can into their brains since they were too lazy to take notes and actually pay attention during the lectures. Let me tell you now, that strategy almost never works... Especially if you get one of those magic folk instructors like Mr. Verdeveile. I think he delights in seeing us humans bust our butts trying to use magic that he can do with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back.”

“Ah, heh... I’ll keep that in mind,” Laticia said, interrupting what appeared to be the start of a long tirade on what was probably the girl’s least favorite instructor. “Thank you for your help. Is there anything else that I should pick up?”

“Let’s see...” the girl thought for a moment, then ticked the items off on her fingers. “You’re going to need paper, pens, some ink... You might want to pick up a few snacks while you’re there just in case one of your classes runs long and you get the munchies. Just make sure that you don’t make too much of a production of chowing down, or the instructor will think you’re not paying attention. That’ll be mega bad for your relation with the staff, and they won’t be as understanding if you don’t quite meet up to expectations.

“If you want to fit in more, then definitely pick up a robe or two. Other than that, a staff or a wand is simply essential to the vast majority of magics. Check with whichever instructor you’re assigned to as your main teacher, though, before you go shopping for one. Some instructors want you to make your own. I think it has something to do with it being more ‘attuned’ to its creator than the average gear. I haven’t tested that theory out myself, so I don’t know whether it’s true.”

Laticia thanked her again and, after picking the books up and bracing the huge stack under her chin, fled out the door before the talkative girl could find something else to expound on. Obviously, a simple, ‘Yes, I’ll write a list,’ was beyond her capability. ‘I’ll bet that Verdeveile guy caught her talking in class, and that’s why she’s so mad at him,’ Laticia thought, tracing a path back to her room so that she could drop the books off before heading out to take care of the rest of the supplies she would need. It had seemed like such a simple task to get everything together before the lunchtime appointment that the guildmistress had set for one of the students to come by her office and help Laticia get settled in. After all that time she’d spent getting her textbooks, getting there on time would be a challenge. She increased her pace a bit and hoped that there wouldn’t be anything in her path to trip her.


‘No cat likes water that much,’ Edrea thought, watching Conch as he sat on the rim of the fountain, looking a lot like a fussy kid as he methodically washed syrup off his paws and mouth. Edrea had been surprised that he’d wanted to try the pancakes the cafeteria had offered for breakfast that morning. Certain that it was going to be a waste of money when he didn’t like it, she’d mentally grumbled as she handed over a couple of extra silver to pay for Conch’s food. He’d eaten it all right. So, happy that she hadn’t wasted her money, she’d prepared to leave when he piped up asking for seconds. ‘The little pig must have eaten practically his weight in food. It’s amazing that he can still fly.’

“Most students don’t have the money to feed someone like you in addition to themselves, you know,” Edrea commented.

“If you need more money, I’m sure I can work something out with Arvad,” Conch splashed more water on his face and, before Edrea could wonder just what he had to work with, continued, “But the way you said that implied that things are different for you. Is your family rich?”

“I suppose that you could say that,” Edrea crossed her arms and fixed Conch with a glare. “That doesn’t mean you can keep packing the food away like this every day. Silver doesn’t grow on trees. Besides, you’ll get fat.”

“Oh, come on. I’m just a growing boy,” Conch pouted before shaking off the excess water and flying up to Edrea’s shoulder. “So, what’s on the agenda for today? Are the elders going to impart the wisdom of the ages to us?”

“Us?” Edrea raised an eyebrow. “You’re going back to my room while I go to class.”

“Aw... Please? I’ll behave. I promise,” Conch crossed his right paw over his chest. “I’ll be so quiet that you’ll hardly even know I’m there... And you can’t observe me for your project thingamajig if I’m not with you, can you?”

Edrea sighed, “All right, you can come. But if you puke on my papers or otherwise disrupt the class, you’re going to regret it.”


“It seems to me that you have too much time on your hands, Wein,” Orielle said.

Arvad glanced out of the corner of his eye at the student who had managed to deflect the attention of the overenthusiastic sprites from him yesterday. Wein’s expression gave the message that he didn’t agree with the guildmistress’ assessment but was too polite to say so. Instead, his only reply was, “Is there any particular task that I can help you with to make better use of my time?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is,” Orielle clasped her hands together on the desk in front of her. “First of all, you can show our newest student, Laticia, around. Do you need a description?”

“I saw her yesterday evening at dinner, so that won’t be necessary. However, I will need the schedule.”

After looking over the paper that the guildmistress had handed him, Wein looked even more displeased. “Are you certain that this is wise?”

“You doubt my judgment?”

“Er, well... That is... You know how hard he can be even on upper level students. And here,” Wein tapped a finger on the schedule. “You’re not only putting her almost exclusively in his classes but have him listed as her mentor as well. I can’t even picture him as being a halfway supportive influence on a magical prodigy let alone someone who has just begun their studies.”

“He has a very good, almost perfect, success record with the previous students that he has taken under his wing. Currently, he is not mentoring anyone. Given that we have fewer full time teachers than is usual and one of the largest student bodies to date, he should consider it a miracle that I haven’t assigned him several students before now. And if he still manages to find mentoring another so objectionable...” Orielle sighed. “Spending more than a century in a self-imposed mourning period over one student is simply not healthy. He will mentor another student now, whether Laticia or another is the only choice he is allowed to make in the matter. Make that clear to him, will you?”

“...Yes, I shall. One way or another. You implied that there was something else, as well?”

“The mage currently in charge of the Trial Cave’s inner workings brought me some rather interesting readings from the measurement glyphs. It’s possible that they may have malfunctioned. In fact, it’s quite likely. However, in order to be certain, they all need to be thoroughly tested, recast if need be, for the veracity of their output. Ordinarily, that would require at least three working together, watching each other’s backs, but I have a feeling that your persuasive talents would make such a backup unnecessary.”

“I’ll take care of it, then,” Wein focused his eyes on the schedule in his hand again and asked, “Is that all?”

“Yes, you may go. Oh, and Wein? We’re all looking forward to seeing what subject you chose for your midterm project.”

The barest hint of a smile was now visible as Wein said, “It’s no use fishing for hints, Guildmistress. My project will remain secret until the last moment possible, and hopefully, you will all consider it an accomplishment worthy of recognition.”


Darulen Verdeveile had a habit of spending time very early in the morning and during the noon meal up on the guild hall’s roof. Though it did provide the isolation and privacy necessary for an undisturbed nap if he were so inclined, he rarely used his time there for that purpose. At least, not without practicing beforehand.

However, today he would not have time for both practice and a nap afterwards. “I’ve been assigned a new student, May. One with as little mystical training as you once had. Maybe even less.”

May, of course, could not respond. She had died long ago. Darulen was speaking to an image of her that he’d summoned from the Rememberizer he always carried with him. The image wouldn’t talk, either, unless he activated a specific memory, but that didn’t matter. He’d seen humans talk to their loved ones’ gravestones before, and that was much the same thing. “She’s an archer from the eastern plains, or so Wein has said. I don’t know exactly what kind of approach I’ll have to take, but at least it’s not going to be some spoiled rich merchant’s child. That type always was the hardest for me to deal with. I didn’t like it very much when you first pointed out how spoiled I was myself. But that’s neither here nor there, is it?”

Darulen released his magic from the sphere and put it back into his pocket. “The art of the Holy Fist... Each form is a prayer, and every action is sacred. You followed that creed well, even to the very end. And you have passed its principles on to me, as much my teacher as I was ever yours,” he shifted his stance as he spoke, letting each form that he had learned flow into the next one, increasing speed with each repetition until he was moving so fast that any observers would have sworn he was using magic. Occasionally, he did add in a move that truly contained magic, but most of his actions were exercising only physical muscles, not mystical ones. His mind had to be kept fresh for his classes and especially for his new pupil who was...

...apparently standing in the doorway with Wein and had been watching him for goddess only knew how long. Blast it all. Darulen completed his last move and sat on the ledge to catch his breath. He motioned for them to come closer. Wagging a finger at Wein, he said, “Not a word about this to the other students, wild-eyed one, or they’ll realize that it’s physical fatigue and not arrogance that accounts for most of my classroom manners... Or lack thereof.”


‘He’s like a totally different person right now.’ Internally, Wein marveled at the change but managed to keep his external reactions down to a surprised blink. “I don’t think that I’ll have any trouble keeping that secret. Sir, this Laticia. Laticia, this is Darulen Verdeveile, Archmage and a senior member of the guild’s council. I’m sorry to be abrupt, but the guildmistress gave me another task to perform, so I really must be...”

“Hold on. Not so fast, Ver Dain. You can spare enough time to trot down to my classroom and write a message on the blackboard. Write down that classes today will be canceled. I know they’ll think you’re playing a practical joke if you just leave it like that so... Add that I’ll be expect a two page essay tomorrow on whatever topic strikes your fancy as being suitably idiotic or obscure. They’ll never question a thing. Don’t look so glum. You’re excused from having to write that rubbish, so go on your merry way.”

Numbly, Wein nodded and turned, descending the staircase once more. ‘Martial arts? Is that what he spends his spare time doing? It’s not what I would have expected out of him. That and what Orielle said about him being in mourning. How very odd. Her own grandmother couldn’t have been much more than a student herself around that time, perhaps even younger. Hm, I’ll have to check into that when I have the time. Which won’t be for a while if I’m going to have to check every single glyph. Why in Althena’s name did the magic have to choose now to produce odd results?’

When he entered Darulen’s classroom, he noted Edrea in one of the front row seats. That was nothing unusual. She was in the class, after all. However, seeing Conch perched on the desk in front of her notebook almost made him miss a step. Then, the blue puffball decided to grin and wave a paw at him in greeting. Wein nodded in return and continued on his way to the board, reminding himself that here was yet another mystery to be unraveled.


“Nice shooting, but it’s not magical. It doesn’t look like your innate magic field’s wind,” Darulen paused to take a bite of food before he continued, “Normally, we wouldn’t have to put students through this particular kind of test anymore. Back during the time of Dragonmaster Leon, they decided to replace individual tests like that with a more generalized series of magic identifier spells placed in different locations throughout the Trial Cave. Apparently, our resident cave watcher didn’t like the results that came up yesterday. Eh, whatever. Those spells down there aren’t that great of an indicator in top form, but at least they don’t blow up in your face if something goes wrong.”

“Is that why they discontinued individual testing? Because somebody... hurt themselves?” If Laticia hadn’t been feeling nervous about this before, she sure felt it now.

“Mm, not exactly. My father told me it was because some kid that took the test caused such a torrential downpour that nobody wanted to risk finding out what would happen if there were someone with that kind of strength in a different field. You don’t have to worry about going up in a puff of smoke or anything, though. A spell’s energy doesn’t build up inside a person unless there’s a lengthy chant required beforehand. Before anybody is allowed to learn magic that powerful, they have to learn several kinds of control techniques and safeguards. Your staff, once you make it, will be one of those. As to worrying about our surroundings, well... I can whip up a counterspell before anything serious happens. Now, let’s see...” Darulen flipped through the pages of a book and pointed one out to Laticia. “Face that rod on the tower over there and try this one.”

“Um, I don’t understand.”

Darulen frowned, “What’s not... Oh, I see. You are under the impression that lightning spells fall under the wind category, aren’t you? It’s a common misconception that usually knocks points off a student’s test here and there, which isn’t so bad really. However, when it comes to combining existing spells or creating totally new ones, knowing about the difference becomes a necessity.”

“I think I see what you mean. Like the different ways they react with water?”

“Exactly like that. Wind will mix with water in virtually any form, whereas lightning rarely mixes with it in a fashion that will benefit the caster... Unless you happen to have an enemy standing knee deep in water while you are perfectly dry,” Darulen held up a warning finger. “Just as you must take into account the wind’s direction when you loose an arrow, you must also be aware of how your own surroundings might affect any spell you cast. The rod on that tower that I pointed out is specifically designed to encourage the natural lightning that storms produce to strike it as opposed to a less desirable location. It will serve the same purpose for this test. Strike when ready.”

Darulen smiled to himself as Laticia took a last look at the book and raised her arm, unconsciously adjusting her fingers to form a perfectly straight angle with the target. ‘Asking good questions and very precise with positioning. I think she’ll do well here. What do you think, May?’


The energy arced through the sky and struck the rod with a deafening boom. “It looks like we have a winner,” Darulen said, raising his water flask in salute before draining the rest down in one gulp.


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