The Story Of Magus Chapter Two
The Test of Magic
"But I don't wanna get up, Schala! All they do is yell at me!"
"I don't care! You've skipped your lessons for three days straight and stayed up reading till way past your bedtime. You need to go to class, Janus, whether you feel like it or not. Now, get your behind in gear this minute!"
No!" The prince stuck his tongue out at his sister and crawled under the covers till he was scrunched up at the foot of his bed. Schala sighed, blew a strand of hair from her face, and put her hands on her hips. Little brothers were so annoying at times! Picking up a pillow, she thwacked the lump in the bed. There was a muffled, "Ooof!", but otherwise, the lump didn't move an inch.
Schala laughed. "Oh, no! A big mole has gotten into my baby brother's bed and has eaten him! Don't worry, Janus, I'll save you," she giggled, thwacking her sibling yet again. "Give me back my brother, mole-monster!" Thwack! "He needs to get up and go to school!" Another thwack!
"Ouch! Okay, okay! Stop it, Schala!" Janus sighed from under the quilts and after much struggling with the sheets, his head popped out, blue hair a tangled mess that hung in his face like a curtain. "But this really is a waste of my time!"
The princess grinned and laid out his clothes on a chair. This was a servant's job, but since the prince had no servants who cared to serve him.... "Jeeze! You're a real grouch this morning! If I were you, I'd be excited. I mean, birthdays only happen once a year and yours is tomorrow." Absently she reached out and tried to brush the blue curls out of his face. He jerked his head away in annoyance. His mother used to do that....He didn't want to think about her. He hated to think about her.
"Why should I be excited? What's another birthday? If you've had one, you've had them all. I'll be eight years old tomorrow. So what? It's not as if I actually matter to anyone around here." Janus glared at his sister who was about to protest. "Oh, stop it! You know as well as I do I'm telling the truth."
"That's an awful thing to say!" she scolded, wagging a finger at him. "Of course you matter! Everyone loves you, Janus, even if they are too busy to show you how much. You know everyone always treats you extra special on your birthday."
"Yeah, so? It's all a sham, they don't mean it! Oh, sure! They laugh and joke and pretend to enjoy being around me. But when they think I can't see them, they sweat and whisper and stare at me." The prince's eyes were frosty. "They blame me for what happened to Father."
Schala didn't say a word, because there was nothing really to say. It was true. She hated to admit it, but it was true. Seven years had passed since the Blackbird disaster. Queen Zeal had taken the heavy role of leadership upon her shoulders, a thing not commonly done so soon after mourning. But she was a strong-willed woman with cunning and intellect who seemed to be doing remarkably well, considering the circumstances. In fact, she had even ordered the construction of a new palace.
Queen Zeal felt it was time to start utilizing the untidy masses of Earthbound Ones as more then just workers for the mining of the rare red Dreamstones that were so popular in the Magical Kingdom. This action was applauded and supported by practically everyone. The Enlightened saw their unfortunate counterparts as little more then animals to be used for labor. The Ocean Palace, as the new structure was to be called, would allow the Queen to spend more time organizing the hapless race and to maintain control over their actions.
While the Earthbound strongly rejected this idea, this form of dictatorship, their pleas and complaints fell on deaf ears. Trust the Enlightened to be so caught up in "helping" their fellow man that they ignored the fact their floating continent was causing an eternal blizzard down below. But what sort of problem was a blizzard, the Enlightened reasoned, when there was a civilization without order? In their opinion, the Earthbound should stop griping about "unfair conditions" and "equality" and be grateful the Queen had anything to do with them at all....especialy since it was one of their stupid rebellions that got the King of Zeal killed in the first place. If he hadn't tried to stop it, he wouldn't have flown in the Blackbird and would probably still be alive to raise his daughter....and of course the prince.
People referred as little to Janus as possible. They blamed him for the King's death as well, saying that his birth brought bad luck. After all, wasn't he named for death and destruction? Though Melchior had protested that he hadn't meant for the name to be a curse on the child, no one really bothered to listen. It was superstitious nonsense, of course, but they were a race of dreamers, (literally), and looked for meaning in places where there was none.
But so it went, back and forth between the Enlightened and the Earthbound, each trying to outdo the other, the Zealians trying to "save" this magic-less race of "beasts." The Earthbound began to become hostile, though not openly aggressive, towards the occupants of Zeal while the Enlightened, blissfully unaware that their actions were causing more harm then good, gloated in their new pet project.
However, the Earthbound had managed to obtain a slight degree of respect due to the recent discovery of a previously undetected power source buried deep inside one of the mining caves. Belthazar, who had been out of action since the King's death, took a sudden interest in this new discovery and made a rapid recovery, now that he had a purpose. His tests showed that this energy was being radiated by some sort of living creature, though as to what it was....The tests had shown it was nothing of this world, though no one could imagine such a force could come from one creature. Belthazar had no theory yet as to what it might be or how to safely tap the energy outflow but he and his development team were working day and night under Queen Zeal's command.
Having always been sharp to spot assets to the throne, the Queen demanded a way be found to harness that power. This led back to the idea of the Ocean Palace, for not only could she govern the Earthbound, but she could use this new power to stop their petty resistance once and for all. And though they were only rumors, it was whispered that the construction of a gigantic machine was in the process. Though publicly, the rumors were denied, one could never tell what cards the crafty Queen planned to used.
Janus sighed and looked around his room. Though the walls were covered with gold inlay and the rest of his things just as expensive, he found no pleasure at the sight of it all. He felt like a bird, a bird trapped in a gilded cage, surrounded by hungry cats. Cats....He liked cats. But that was about all he liked in this dreary land full of false smiles and shattered dreams.
"No one likes me, Schala. No one ever will. I have no friends, except you." The boy's eyes filled with tears that he bravely choked back. "Not even Mother likes me." This last part slipped out before he could stop it. He hated to talk about her, it hurt too much.
"Oh, but you are so wrong Janus!" Schala replied, sitting down on the bed and taking her brother's shoulders in her hands. She felt the tension in him, the strain of his emotions which he struggled to control. She drew him close and he hugged her tightly, burying his face in her shoulder. "You know Mother is busy. She has the Kingdom to run, and now with this business with the Ocean Palace....We must try to think of the time she does spend with us, not on how much we miss her." She held Janus at arms length and looked sternly into his large eyes. Though they shone with tears, it did nothing to diminish their intense purple color. "But that doesn't mean she has stopped loving us."
"I know....but I miss her allot. I wish that just once we could talk. Just you and her and I, all together. Like....like a family...." He swallowed a lump in his throat and sighed. "I hardly ever see her, even when she's not busy. She likes you more then she does me. I mean, I know she cares, but I wish she would show it a little bit more...."
"I know, Janus. I know." The princess hugged her brother again and tried a small laugh. It wasn't a good laugh, but it lightened the mood. "C'mon. You need to get dressed. The Gurus will wonder where you've gotten yourself to and will yell at you if you don't show up soon."
The prince made a face as he hopped out of bed and reached for his clothes. "It doesn't matter what I do or what I say, they are always grouchy!" he complained. Schala turned her back politely as he changed.
"Well, you do give them a hard time, you know. They say you are very bright and gifted if you'd only apply yourself more to those magic exercises they've given you."
"Oh, Schala! Not you too! You're starting to sound like Gaspar!" Janus imitated the Guru of Time's voice in a none-too-pleasent tone. "Stand up straight! Pay attention! Focus! Apply yourself to the task!"
Schala laughed, caught herself, and tried to sound disapproving. "Now, Janus....ha, ha...er, um, that's not nice to...he, he...do! Guru Gaspar is just trying to...he does sound like that doesn't he? I mean, he's just trying to help you learn the things you need to know for when you get older," she finished lamely. She heard her brother snort.
"Yeah, right. I don't see the point of learning this stuff anyway. Everyone knows I don't have magic in me."
Schala frowned, startled. "Who's been telling you that you don't have magic?"
"Who is everyone? The Gurus? Other Enlightened?"
"It's no big deal, Schala. I don't care. Everyone says that of the both of us, you have the power of magic while I got stuck with the Black Wind. People say I'm gifted because I can hear it. But then, you have that power too, so I'm really not that special am I?" His tone grew pouty. "Why do you get all the fun, Schala? I don't mean to sound jealous, 'cause I know I should be happy for what gifts I've got, even if it is a stinky old wind..."
Schala whirled around in anger. Janus was tucking in his shirt when his sibling grabbed hold of him. She gave him a hard shake. "The Black Wind isn't a gift! It's a curse, Janus, do you understand? I don't want it. I hate it! It's not something to be proud of. And yes you do have magic! You must have it."
The boy stared at his sister in shock. She was so angry! "I-I'm sorry! I was j-just repeating w-w-what I heard," he stammered. Schala let him go and stepped away. He watched her in confusion, not quite understanding what was happening. She sighed and shook her head.
"It's okay, Janus. Don't apologize. I'm sorry I scared you," she said.
But it wasn't okay, not with the prince you stood watching her carefully, protectively, wanting to make her feel better and to laugh like she had only moments ago. But the thought still nagged at him. "But Schala, what if it's true?"
"What if what's true?"
"What if I really don't have any magic like everyone says? What if all I have is the Black Wind and that's all I'll ever have? Maybe I'm like the Earthbound...."
Now Schala laughed despite herself. "No, Janus, my dear little brother. You are Enlightened and nothing will ever change that. As all Enlightened have magic, so do you, you just have to find it inside yourself. Trust in that and it will come to you, believe me." She straightened his collar, ran a comb through his hair, separating the tangles gently, and tucked the hair behind his pointed ears. "There! Now you look like a prince."
"Oh, goody!" her brother remarked sarcastically. This earned him a dirty look but he grinned anyway.
Schala put her hands on her hips. "Keep acting this way and I'll give your present to someone else." She watched as her brother's face lit up.
"Present? For me? What is it? What is it?"
"You'll see!" Schala told him mysteriously. The boy sighed, in disappointment but nodded. Laughing, Schala handed him his books on wind, fire, and water and pushed him out of his room into the hall. "Get going! You're in for it as it is!"
Four halls, three cross-chambers and five dawdling minutes later, Prince Janus arrived to the last stretch of his commute from the royal living quarters to the more populated areas in the palace. On his route there was a particularly long stairway that had to be descended. It had a slippery wooden railing, perfect for sliding down.
Looking both ways to make sure no one was around, Janus crawled up onto the top and straddled the railing. Once again he checked the area. The coast seemed clear. Holding the books tightly in one arm, he pushed off. The slide started out slow then picked up speed. He was just starting to prepare for stopping when one of the books slipped from his grasp. The boy tried to catch it, but forgot to stop and instead, flew off the end of the railing, smashing into something soft and sprawling on the floor.
As he dizzily got up, a firm hand latched onto his collar, lifting him up. "And just what in the name of the Great Nu did you think you were doing?!"
Raising his head, Janus groaned. It was Gaspar. He made regal face and said, "How dare you lay hands on the royal person! Let me go at once!" commanded. Gaspar shrugged and dropped Janus who landed on his behind with a thud. He glared up at the old Guru. "That's wasn't want I meant! I meant, let me go gently!"
Gaspar shrugged again. "Well, you didn't say that did you?" He reached down and took the prince by the ear. "Okay, young man. March!" The old man started walking, dragging Janus along behind him.
"Ouch! Hey, lemme go! I'll have your head for this!" he wailed.
"Oh, hush, you little monster! I've just spent half an hour running around looking for you and I'm in no mood to deal with your temper tantrums!"
Janus gasped in astonished annoyance. "You can't talk to me like that! I'm a prince! I'm the one who tells people to hush!" He sulked. "And I'm not throwing a temper tantrum!"
"When you're old enough to behave your age and take some responsibility, then I'll listen to you. But until then, I'm the adult here so I give the commands."
The prince glowered but said nothing, since his head was at an uncomfortable angle and he was forced to walk fast to keep his ear from being yanked off. As they rounded the corner into the corridor that led to the library, (where the classes were held), loud obnoxious laughter filled the air. Captain Dalton could be seen, leaning against a pillar with a couple of his buddies, all of them obviously intoxicated. The smell of beer hung in the air.
Gaspar frowned, hating to have to expose Janus to this shameful display, but it was either pass the lounging guards or take another fifteen minutes to go around them through other side-galleries. Gaspar decided to plow right through as fast as he could. He started to walk so hurriedly that Janus was forced to practically jog.
As they passed, he saw Dalton and saw a possible chance for escape. "Hey, Dalton!" he cried. The man turned his head and stared through his one good eye, blinking owlishly. He made a funny staggering bow, as did his cohorts. "Arrest this man, Dalton. That's a command!"
Dalton hiccupped and giggled like a girl. "On what...hiccup!....chargesh...your Highnesh? Hiccup!" he slurred. "I can't go 'round arreshting people fer no reashon...hiccup!"
"Premeditated abduction of royalty, Dalton! Gaspar is trying to kidnap me and take me to the library for stupid magic lessons. It's your duty as the Captain of the Royal Guards to protect me from psychos like this!" Janus replied with a wave at Gaspar.
"Don't talk to him, Janus," Gaspar murmured. "Just keep walking."
Dalton raised his eyebrows. "Pre-ted-i-mated wha....? Hey! Hang on there, Gashper! Burp! I tink thish kid ish trying to tell me someshing!"
Gaspar snorted and remarked, "Come along, Janus. You have enough bad habits without seeing this poor excuse for a role-model."
Janus cried out in frustration. "I don't believe this! I'm in a palace full of loonies! Dalton! What's my mother paying you to do? Stand there and look pretty?" The Captain laughed, burped, and winked lewdly.
"That...and other thingsh!" he snickered. The other guards busted up laughing. Janus gave Gaspar a questioning look. Before he could ask his question, the Guru had placed his hand over his ears. It didn't do a thing to block the sounds but he got the hint.
"For God's sake, man! Have some decency! If not for your own sake then for the sake of the boy, keep your bedroom activities where they belong! I don't care what you do behind closed doors or who with but I will not have it broadcasted throughout the palace!" Gaspar hissed. Dalton held up his hands.
"Okay, okay! Jeesh! Burp! Hiccup!"
Gaspar put his hand on Janus' shoulder and propelled him along the way. "Come along."
"That's Prince Janus to you, Gaspar, not 'the boy.' I am royalty."
"I get no respect....!"
They reached the library where Melchior and Belthazar, (and of course the Nu), lounged about. Melchior was smoking his pipe and flipping through a book on alloys while Belthazar and the Nu tinkered with some gizmo on one the of the tables. The Guru of Time looked up as they entered.
"What kept you? Had to chase his Highness across Terra Continent?" Belthazar spoke the title mockingly. Janus sniffed disdainfully at him and raised his nose in the air.
"No, we ran into some trash along the way," Gaspar replied in disgust. Melchior looked up from his book. "Dalton was being his customary sick self, as usual, and was stone drunk."
Belthazar shook his head and Melchior closed his book. They knew the Captain's habits well enough to agree that he was scum. Janus, on the other hand, liked to contradict everyone so he said, "He was just having a bit of fun, is all."
Gaspar sighed and pushed him into the room, closing the door behind him. "Yes, go ahead and defend the idiot, Janus. You're too young to know better. But I must insist that I'd rather you not spend your time with that character. He's bad news."
"Not to mention a royal pain in the neck!" Belthazar added loudly. Realizing what he'd said, he made a little bow to Janus. "If you'll pardon the expression. I didn't mean to insinuate that being royalty makes one a pain." Of course, he reasoned, in Janus' case, an exception might be made.
Janus waved a hand airily, walking to a chair and seating himself. "Not at all my dear fellow. I realize that your age has doubtlessly addled your wits and made you forgetful of the proper forms of etiquette used in the presence of royalty."
Melchior tapped the ashes in his pipe into a jar, (one actually meant for ashes this time), and pulled his chair closer to his pupil. "That's a new line. Where'd you pick up that one?"
"Yes, I don't recall that particular insult. Where do you get that stuff anyway?" Gaspar asked as well. Janus smiled smugly.
"Wouldn't you like to know...." He laughed, handing over his books. "Check the book on wind, page two-seventy-six. It has some things scribbled in the margins. I added my own twists of course, but the idea is the same."
Melchior opened said book and flipped to the page. "I don't see anything."
"I know. I scratched it out." Janus chuckled. "There's more where that came from, though not in these books. I got most of my ideas from Belthazar, if you must know. I've been using his old school books and he has some really nifty insults he scribbled down about his teachers. I just took the old ideas and changed them for my use. I must admit, he inspires the creative side of me."
The Guru of Reason sighed forlornly, petting the Nu. "I hate it when you do that." He looked sadly at his two grinning friends. The creature at his side started to wobble. "See what I have to put up with? He takes the nicest of compliments and turns them into insults." The Nu suddenly fell forward, it's head thunking on the table. Loud snores erupted from it's throat. Belthazar smacked it on the head and it awoke with a sneeze. "Try to stay awake, you irritating thing!" To Janus, he continued, "If you spent half the time you use to make us miserable, you could be the smartest boy in Zeal Kingdom."
Janus laughed at that. "For a no-magic Enlightened, I'd say I do pretty well."
Melchior shook his head. "You've been listening to too much gossip, lad. Everyone has magic in them, it's just find out how to reach it. You just need to settle down and focus. That's why I think you need to take the Test of Magic."
Janus looked irritated. "Test of Magic?! Are you insane? There is no way I can take that! I can't even levitate a potted plant and you want me to start using Tech spells already?!"
Melchior laughed. "No, Janus. I wouldn't expect you to know Tech spells at your age. But a slightly less formal version of the Test might be in order. What I'm saying is that you need confidence. To cast spell you need inner strength. To get inner strength you need to feel self-worth. Your mind is saying 'no' but your inner self is saying 'yes'. You just need to listen...."
Janus looked at the Guru of Life as if he were nutzoid. "Listen, huh? To my inner self?" He assumed a very patient look, as if he were talking to someone he knew to be crazy. "Okay, Melchior, and what else do these inner voices say? Do they say to you that you are in need of professional counseling? We have some very helpful people here...."
Melchior sighed. "Forget it. I'm sorry I brought it up. You are obviously too immature to handle this." Janus bristled defensively. Inside, Melchior congratulated himself. Trust Janus to fear his fragile ego being threatened!
"I'm not immature! It's just that-" Janus paused and listened. He thought he'd heard a noise. Shaking it off, he tried to finish his sentence. "It's just that I'm not ready to take any tests yet. It's not fair to make me take one when I have no idea what's on it." There was that noise again! Trying to focus on his argument, Janus added lamely, "And besides, I don't want to do it and you can't make me!" That was it. He DID here something, but it wasn't from inside. It was from outside. Getting up, he shoved past the Gurus and went to the window. There was the source of the noise. He spotted a small lavender furball scurry across the grassy garden that sat inside the palace center. Closely following the ball were a group of laughing Enlightened children. As the prince watched, one of the kids started sparking little jolts of energy at the puff-critter. Angered by the display of cruelty to animals, Janus ran to a side door and opened it up, entering another section of library and exiting through the glass garden door. He ignored the cries of his teachers for him to return to them at once. Instead, he stomped right up to the kids and drew himself to his most imposing height. At almost eight years of age, it was a great deal of height, but the look on his face was more then enough to make up for it.
"Stop this at once!" he commanded. The kids saw him, squealed, and backed off.
"It's the Prince!" one boy screeched.
"Run for your life!" a girl added. As one, the group of kids took off leaving Janus alone with the poor victimized creature. He approached the puff-critter. It turned out to be a very fluffy kitten of a pale lavender color. The poor thing was shaking in fear and tried to bite the prince as he reached for it. In the background he could here Melchior, who had obviously followed him, scolding the cruel Zealian children as they ran by. Slowly, ever so slowly, Janus tried to pet the kitten again. This time, sensing that he meant no harm, the kitten let him scratch it's head and under it's chin before crawling up into the boy's lap. Janus was ecstatic. Cats were rare in Zeal since they had to be captured as kittens from their wild parents who usually were too ferocious to approach. Wild cats were just as dangerous as the monsters that dwelled within the many caves on Terra Continent. And yet, here was this adorable little creature who was actually starting to like him. That was a first. Besides Schala, no one really liked him at all. A surge of love went through him and he couldn't help but hug the kitten closer.
But as the Guru of Life approached, the cat went wild. It leapt off Janus' lap and scurried up a wooden pole where it clung to one of the flags. The pole was a good ten feet high and it was obvious the kitten was scared to move. "Oh, no! Now he's stuck!" Janus complained. "Look what you did!" Melchior apologized.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare it. I'll tell you what, I'll go get a ladder." With that, Melchior turned and went to go fetch one. Janus, on the other hand, wanted the cat down right then and there.
"It's okay, kitty. I'll get you down...somehow." He looked at the pole and at the height of a nearby wall. He decided that if he could lean from the wall to the pole, he'd have the cat crawl onto him and then get down. It seemed like a perfectly sound plan. He climbed up onto the wall using the cracks for footholds, balancing fairly well on it's narrow ledge. On the other side of the wall was dizzying drop to the bottom of the mountain Zeal Palace stood upon. He tried not to think about how it would feel to splatter and concentrated on getting the kitten.
He reached for the pole, successfully grasping it, and held on. The kitten jumped onto his shoulders and crawled down him to finally plop onto the wall. Janus was relived and pushed himself back to a straight position. He carefully lifted the kitten and held it and started walking along the top of the wall to find a way to get down since he couldn't climb down with one hand.
As he walked, he began to notice that the wall wasn't as in good condition as he thought it was. The bricks were coming lose and starting to fall apart and the mortar was cracking. Trying to place his weight evenly was beginning to become a problem and without warning, the wall gave way beneath him. With a shout, the prince tumbled towards the garden, (which was good because then he would only fall about ten feet), but the heavy stones and bricks would then land on top of him, (which was not good because he could get his skull smashed).
Janus twisted to avoid landing on the kitten, the impact of the ground knocking the air out of him and he could feel his right arm break. Fighting against pain and a shower of rocks, he did the only thing he could think of....protected the kitten. He hugged the animal close and then a rock hit him and he blacked out.
Less then a few minutes later, the other two Gurus ran to the scene when they heard the wall crumbling and Janus' shout. They found him surrounded by rocks, unconscious from a bloody cut on his head with a broken arm. Though the rocks hadn't been large enough to kill him, they could have caused serious wounds. What was surprising was the fact that apparently he had cast a crude shield spell which blocked the brunt of the fall. It looked unintentional, so it probably had been his mind's reflex action.
To this day, no one knows if it really was a spell he cast or if he was simply lucky. But it seemed to the Gurus a positive sign that yes, Prince Janus did indeed have magic and they drilled him twice as hard in his studies, delaying the Test of Magic until his arm healed.
The cat was actually the gift Schala had talked about earlier that same day. She had been bringing it to her brother when it had escaped her grasp. He named it Alfador, after the original founder of Zeal Kingdom. The kitten and Janus formed a strong attachment and people found it a little unbelievable the animal actually liked one such as him. But Alfador was like his young master, fickle, finicky, and as long as he had his cat beside him, Prince Janus wasn't lonely anymore.