I was just a brat back then. I was like twelve, maybe even eleven. Yes, I was eleven. I was stupid back then, too stupid for my own good. If I could turn back time and redo that day, I’d have stayed in line instead of rushing in.
It was one of those days, when strong magicians from different schools look for new apprentices. There are lots of schools based on magic types and each school had their own small arena, where one of the representative would test all who wanted testing. Some through battle, some through quizzes or complex magics: all dependent on the school’s specialization and representative’s tastes.
Livia, one of my sisters, the “middle” sister just came of age recently, and that made her eligible for a try-out. Our family was not a magical one: Livia was practically the only one, who was able to do serious magic, while others (father, mother, older sister Anna, younger sister Vika, two twin brothers Wolly and Bolly and me) could generally just light a small fire for cooking. Livia though could re-enforce anything to make it nearly indestructible, could create a light so bright, that it would make a night turn into day and even blind you. Her specialty was defense, like armor, shields, and diversions.
It was a hot sunny day. We were standing in line, but a bit outside, since the next one knew we should go first. Livia was nervous, red all-over, unsure of herself, with mother, hands on Livia’s shoulders, as if trying to reassure and to protect like only a mother could. Wolly and Bolly were running around with other children. VIka, was hiding behind father’s leg, but barely able to hide her interest of the people around her, especially those, who were practicing magic.
Ann was with her husband Rodrick: a wannabe magician, who actually failed at magic school and had to become an alchemist. He liked to brag about his days in school, but in most cases, he exaggerated almost everything to make him look cooler. He was indeed, better with magic, but still inferior to Livia. Nevertheless, he was trying to encourage her, telling how good it was at school, how teacher were strict, but kind and help any way they could.
I was… I was listening. The people who finished their challenge and who were passing by were talking about all kinds of things, all kinds of magic that schools’ representatives were using. And it seemed, like representative of the Defense Magic School has not accepted anyone yet. That is everyone failed. From what I was able to gather, he challenged you to a fight. You were to be the first to attack and then… Well, they say the representative was so fast and strong, that some people barely got close to him, before being knocked over to the ground.
Livia hear all those stories, too. And judging by her face she was losing more and more faith in herself. I wanted to help her, to defeat that representative myself and ask to take her on as apprentice. Since no one was paying attention to me, I decided to try to sneak in. You see, the trials were conducted on a field near the castle that was generally used for horse rides. But to make it more or less orderly they were not using the main entrance. The field was divided into small arenas, with a makeshift halls leading to them. The main entrance was used for spectators, who bought tickets beforehand: they came in through it and spread out along the field to watch the challenges. And guard blocked the entrance with a fence and patrol to keep anyone else from coming the same way. But that should not be a problem for me.
I have a special ability. If I wish for it and hold my breath… I disappear. I mean, I become invisible, see-through. And I remain such for as long as I do not breathe. So I get as close to the main entrance as I can without being seen by guards. Then I make a large breath in… and run. I run to the fence and struggle to get over it, since it’s at least twice as tall as me. I tumble down from the top of it, making it rumble a bit. I hope that guards will not take a closer look…
I run again, trying to hold the breath in with my hands. I’m starting to see black dots, but I need to hurry into the crowd. Just when I was starting to pass out, I reach it. I dive into the sea of people and breathe in air along with their perspiration and mead aromas. I struggle through the crowd, moving to the most right of the field, where representative of Defense Magic School is supposed to be. I can’t see the field and magic battles occurring on it from behind the grown-ups’ backs. I am going blind here, until I finally fit the wall. Now – to get on the field.
When another participant was leaving the field, discouraged and beaten, one of the spectators got pushed over. I quickly ran to him, seeing my chance:
- M’Sir, are you all right?
As he started saying, that he is fine, I put my hands on his leg and poured some mana into his ankle to make it swollen:
- M’Sir, I think your leg may be hurt. Doctor! Doctor! We need a doctor here!
Some men rushed in and to the “victim”, asking me to move away. I held my breath again and on my fours crawled through the crowd and onto the field. I stood up, shaking dirt away and starting to breathe normally. I turned left and I saw…
He was huge. My father was a blacksmith and was all muscles and, well, big, but he… He felt like a tower, standing tall all over the world. Down from below he looked like 3 or even 4 meters tall. Slim, but muscles all over, radiant with power. High black boots, relatively free dark-blue pants, like those used by some combatants during trainings. White shirt, button all up to the collar, seemed untouched by the dirt around. Wind blew it over man’s body, tightening the shirt over his body, making me open my mouth in awe. Strong clean-shaved face with yellowish eyes, crowned by dark hair, shadowing blue on light. And two ram-like horns on the sides of his head, coming from under and over his ears.
He was standing calmly, legs on shoulders’ width. He held a stave with part of it as thick as mead barrel. He held it with left hand only with the handle behind his back. As if in black-and-white premonition, I saw him crushing my bones with this stave no matter how much and how fast I would move. I looked down at the ground: it was a very stupid idea to challenge him. It was impossible for me.
- I accept my defeat, M’Sir.
- Raise your head, boy, - a deep, yet kind voice said. I looked up. Was that a glimpse of a smile? – You are the only one who was able to admit he is weak and accept that you can’t win against me. That is strength in itself and I commend you for it. But it does not look like you belong here, boy. What are you doing here?
- Forgive me, M’Sir, but my sister… My sister Livia, she is a very good mage: she can create a light as strong as the sun and she can make things withstand thousands of blows against them! Please, please, take her on as an apprentice! I beg of you, I’d do whatever you want for that!
Was that… Another smile?
- I can’t promise you that..
- But I thought, - I interrupted him, but he raised his hand, silencing me
- I am merely a tool of my master. I will speak to him about you and your request and he will decide whether to accept it. What is your name, boy?
- Artimenius, M’Sir.
- Good. Now do your trick and run away from here, until someone else realizes you’re not supposed to be in here.
And I ran back to my family. In the end, we still did not reach the representative and Livia was not tested.
Yes, my name is Artimenius, and if I did not strive to help my sister that day, this war would have never happened.