Published by Lindsay Wardell on 11/13/2017

Familiar shapes flickered into being around Lindin as he appeared in the main hall of the Watcher’s tower. His mind was already racing ahead, seeking out the connections to the spellweave it needed for the day’s work. Spending time with Velsyph, despite its abrupt end, had given him a new sense of purpose. He still had his mentor, despite this change in his life.

The room was quiet, as usual, but Lindin smiled at those he passed on the way to the stairs. They had become familiar, after a sense. The man who always wore a robe too large for his body. The elf woman who wore her hair down, an unusual style for the highlands. The two telepaths constantly joking with each other, their thoughts made public even if their words were not spoken. They were by no means friends, but they provided a certain level of comfort.

Lindin quickly reached his office, entered the chamber, and sat down. The center of the room had become comfortable as well. No longer strange to him, the walls and the floor seemed to offer an escape, rather than a prison. Here, his mind was free to do what it did best – observe.

Not that he was proficient in mere observation yet, of course. Velsyph had always wanted Lindin to act, rather than be acted upon. To be observant was important, but only until action was required. To be a skilled Watcher appeared to be skilled in doing nothing, even when feeling compelled otherwise.

Harsen had reminded him, on the occasion of a commoner being robbed, that systems were in place for a reason, and that it was not Lindin’s duty to interfere. Within moments, one of the silver automatons had appeared, tackling the would-be robber, and returning the stolen goods to their rightful owner.

“Just breathe,” the high arcanist had told him at the time. “If you must do something, just breathe.” And so he did.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

Slowly, Lindin attempted to calm his nerves. Meditation had never been his strongest skill, but he had done it enough to know the basics. By shedding the personal, the physical, a wizard could become one with the ley lines of the World. With access to that, he could do nearly anything, if he had the will to do it.

Breathe in, breathe out. Feel the flow of the World that surrounds all.

Much of it had seemed like gibberish in Lindin’s early days. Sure, the ley lines held all the power. And yes, the wizards could access that power. But how could sitting still allow him greater access to all that power?

Breathe in, breathe out. Let the World flow through the mind.

Eventually, he had a breakthrough. In a moment of bored panic, he had glimpsed what the ley lines could give him. That moment, more than anything else, had been the key to his growth as a wizard.

Breathe in, breathe out. Gaze into the World, throughout its essence.

From that moment, Lindin had understood what it truly meant to be a wizard. To walk the paths of power, one must be willing to comprehend the nature of that power, and the vessel in which it resided. Argantin taught that the goal of every wizard should be the continual increase of power, above all else. Through a personal connection to the ley lines, Lindin’s power had grown in ways he had never anticipated.

Breathe in, breathe out. Calm the mind. Release the inner voice, listen to the voice of the World.

It was different for everyone, Linin knew. Meditation did not always lead to sudden realization or insight. But it was his key, and that was all that mattered.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

In his mind, shapes and patterns took form, while his body’s essence slowly faded into the background. Below and above him, the city of Arhals took shape. Majestic towers floated above, while other, older towers rose from the ground, as if reaching out to the heavenly city above. Lines of energy, as clear as any physical thing, flow between the towers, connecting them in web of never-ending spells: the spellweave.

Willing his mind’s eye to motion, Lindin begins to move through the city, following the route established for him. It had never been assigned to him directly, but the other Watchers had moved away from the areas he went, as if in passive acknowledgement of his duties. Similarly, Lindin did not attempt to follow the routes of the others, honoring the unspoken code.

Buildings moved past him as he went, almost forgotten as he focused on the lines of energy. Central to all others, the Senate of Arhals stood out among the other structures. It hummed with energy, itself a center of the spellweave and its efforts. Here, natural ley lines intersected with the spellweave, drawing power into the city like a well. It was because of this ley line that Arhals had been the chosen place for Argantin to make his return into the physical world all those years ago.

“You met with Archmage Velsyph yesterday.”

The voice jarred Lindin, causing the world in his mind to spin. He took a few calming breaths, then responded, “Yes.” Entranced as he was, he hadn’t been able to place whose voice had spoken.

“You received a message from him requesting your presence at the Grand Senate yesterday.” The owner of the voice became clear; it was Harsen. “You went and watched the session with him.”

“Yes,” Lindin replied, the vision fading from his eyes as Harsen spoke. Thoughts came to mind that the wizard couldn’t push back down, breaking his concentration. The glorious hum of energy melted away, leaving him in his body once more. Lindin opened his eyes to see his new master standing before him, arms folded across his chest, his face contorted into a glare.

“What in Argantin’s name would you do such a thing for?”

The question caught Lindin off guard. “Archmage Velsyph is my friend,” he said cautiously.

Harsen shook his head. “This is not a matter of friendship, Lindin. There is an order to things. You are not his apprentice any more, nor are you his equal. Far from it.” The arcanist knelt to look at Lindin directly. “To appear at the senate without my approval is a thing that should never have happened.”

Lindin frowned, confused at the outburst. “I don’t understand,” he said simply.

Harsen sighed. “I know,” he said, much of the anger draining from his face. “I recognize you were not trained properly. Hell, you probably shouldn’t have been given this assignment. That’s not to say you haven’t performed well so far,” he said, as Lindin’s eyes looked downward, “but Velsyph clearly failed you as a teacher.”

Lindin wanted to speak, to disagree, to prove that Velsyph hadn’t failed him. But if the past week had taught him anything, it was the Harsen and Velsyph did not have the same metrics for measuring success. Rather than speak, he kept his eyes fixed on the ground, waiting.

“From now on,” Harsen said, rising to his feet again, “you are not to meet with, or speak to, Archmage Velsyph without my approval. No direct contact unless I know about it. Do you understand?”

Lindin looked up in shock. “What?”

“It’s become clear to me that your training will need to begin again if you’re going to be of any use to the Empire. As an apprentice, you will do exactly as I say, without deviation. No contact.”

Lindin nodded silently, his body numb from the statement. “Good. You will continue to work as a Watcher, but the end of your shift will instead be devoted to learning your place among the wizards of the Empire. Velsyph should never have coddled you like he did.”

Harsen turned on his heels, exiting the chamber. Before he left he added, “I will inform the archmage about this change so that you don’t need to worry about such incidents again. I’m sure that he’ll understand.” The door closed behind him, leaving Lindin alone, bathed in the iridescent blue light of the chamber.

Emotions churned within Lindin; anger, frustration, sadness. A need to act, to do something. Harsen was out of line; surely there was something that Lindin could do about it. His mind began to race, searching for solutions. Perhaps he could appeal to the Arcanum? Or go to Velsyph now, before anything could be said? No, it was probably too late already.

Lindin balled his hands into fists, his fingernails, short though they were, biting into his palms. At last, however, his mind began to slow. There was nothing that could be done now, he knew. Any action would need to wait. He couldn’t just leave his post, no matter how outrageous Harsen was.

Lindin closed his eyes, willing himself to calm once more.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

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