The light from the sun reflected lazily off the glass artwork of the hallway as Lindin descended the spiral staircase of the tower. His mind rejected the warming rays, pleading for darkness, but no response came. Never had he experienced such exhaustion during his training. The mental strain from constant manipulation of the spellweave was not something he could have ever prepared for. Every sense, every thought echoed across the entire city, filling his body with both euphoria and vertigo together.
A few other wizards moved around him, either climbing the staircase or descending with him. Their paces were faster, more engaged. Where his legs ached from the lack of movement, Lindin suspected that they were accustomed to the toils of a Watcher. None of them spoke; Lindin determined not to break the trend.
A large room opened up at the bottom of the staircase. The rich scarlet of the carpet evoked a sense of majesty, while enchanted murals sat adorning the walls as spectators, their subjects moving about in slow, repeating movements. Multiple doorways opened to balconies wide enough to hold at least ten wizards across.
From one of the doorways, Lindin could hear the sounds of clashing metal, and the cheers of an onlooking crowd. In a flash, the two duelists passed by, their swords gleaming in the evening sun. Spells flickered between them, illusion and misdirection, fading suddenly as the two came together for the final stroke. One of them vanished into the air, reappearing behind the other, his sword around the man’s neck. The second, eyes closed, elbowed the man in the ribs, then spun to engage him again, moving away from the doorway.
Lindin sighed. He enjoyed watching a duel as much as the next, but his body refused to obey even as the notion came to his mind to join the spectators. Sleep was all it would allow.
In the center of the chamber sat a glowing blue crystal, its lower half encased in a pedestal. White light pulsed from its surface, then beside it appeared a woman, her hand hovering over the crystal’s surface. As she walked away, a pair of undermages approached, placed their hands on its surface, and vanished into another flash of light.
Lindin walked up, his hand grazing the crystal’s surface. In his mind, he held onto the image of the rune for his home, one of the massive towers where lower-class wizards lived. To his senses, his saw only a bright light, then the unfamiliar setting of the tower’s antechamber.
He had only moved in two days prior; the place seemed more like a prison to him than any sort of home. In his apprenticeship to Velsyph, he had stayed in the Archmage’s personal home, along with the servants and house staff. They had become friends, of a sort. Conversations carried from one day to the next, sometimes over weeks or months. So far, none of the tower’s other inhabitants had even said hello.
Lindin quickly made his way up the staircase to his own chamber. No one else was in the hallways, nor were there any sounds in the tower besides his own footsteps. He entered his room, closing the door soundlessly behind him.
The room itself was bare, but not so much as his new office. A bed, comfortable enough for his needs, sat in the corner. A desk sat below his window, overlooking the mountains on the city’s western boundary. On it, the letter Velsyph had written to him, announcing his promotion and position within the Empire.
He picked it up, reading it again as he had for the past week. “My dear Lindin,” it began, “it has been my greatest pleasure to have you as my apprentice. These last years have been magical, if you’ll pardon the pun. Never could I have hoped for an apprentice so talented and curious about the arcane. I am certain that you will do great things for the city of Arhals, and the Empire.”
He set it down again, frowning slightly. Harsen’s words echoed in his mind, “Without the proper sense of curiosity, you will not prosper as a wizard.” What did Velsyph see that Harsen didn’t? Had he done something wrong? Lindin didn’t think so, and yet the question remained.
His body, however, refused to give it any more thought. He yawned, exhaustion defying the dimming rays of the sun. He removed his robes, climbed into his bed, and allowed his body to fall into a restless sleep, his dreams haunted by fatigue and doubt.