“Again.” Harsen’s voice boomed in the small chamber. Lindin sighed, his frustration starting to boil over. How long has he been at this? “Keep your emotions in check,” the voice roared it correction. “Again.”
Lindin squeezed his eyes shut, trying to focus on the task at hand. Never had this been so difficult before. All around him, he could feel the spellweave – the network of arcane energy that controlled the entire city – and yet he was incapable of taking hold of it. Perhaps it was the pressure he was under. Perhaps Harsen was trying to sabotage his efforts. Perhaps a million other reasons, but the fact of it didn’t change.
Even in his youth, connecting with the spellweave had been a simple matter. It was partly this that had drawn Velsyph to choose him as an apprentice. Surely, one so young, full of such promise, would do great things under the right hand. Lindin had been honored by the attention, of course, but after today, he wasn’t sure that he possessed any unusual talent after all.
“You’re distracted. Focus your mind. Again,” Harsen called, his voice as firm as it had been at the start.
Once more, Lindin calmed his mind, tuning his thoughts to the currents of energy surrounding him. He felt as a drop of rain in a storm, so close to immeasurable power yet incapable of touching it. He reached, again and again, until finally…
He tried again. And again. At last, his mind caught hold of the edges of the spellweave. At once, a rush of power flowed into his body, breaking his concentration. A blue glow shimmered across his body as he opened his eyes, throwing his arms out to catch himself.
Above him stood Harsen, arms crossed, his face unreadable. “What happened?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Lindin answered honestly.
“You are a Watcher now, Lindin,” Harsen said, frowning. His eyes peered down at him, disapproval evident on his face. “Describe what you saw.”
Lindin nodded, lowering his gaze. “At first,” he began, “it was as if the spellweave had been blocked off, almost nonexistent. Then, I was able to feel it, see it in my mind, but I still couldn’t touch it. When I broke through, it was overwhelming.”
The high arcanist nodded. “Why could you not make the connection at first?”
“I’m don’t know,” Lindin admitted, his face starting to burn in embarrassment.
Harsen sighed. “I don’t like to repeat myself, Lindin. You are a Watcher. Your duty is to watch, and report. Speculation based on observation is a part of your job. Why do you think you could not make the connection?”
Taking a deep breath, Lindin pushed back feelings of frustration. In his first days with Velsyph, there had been times like this, leaving him unable to answer to his own expectations. Time and again, Velsyph had reminded him that knowledge was never a final product.
After a few seconds more to calm himself, Lindin responded, “I believe that the spellweave was not functioning correctly.”
The arcanist nodded. “Why did you lose your connection when you did make it? I’m certain the archmage taught you the dangers of drawing in power in such a way.”
Lindin sighed. “Yes, master,” he said, reigning in his feeling of humiliation. “It surprised me how much power was there. When I couldn’t make the connection, I had assumed I would need to work harder to have any power to use.”
Harsen nodded again, then smiled. “That you could reach it at all shows me what I needed to know,” He knelt in front of Lindin. “I was blocking your access to the spellweave.”
Lindin nodded. This explained what he was feeling. “Why?” he asked.
“Simple. If we are ever under attack, be it a rogue wizard or an army of sorcerers, our access to the spellweave may be more difficult. Imagine if the entire city were to reach out at once, needing power for their own spells, with such urgency as to strain the ley lines. It would feel much the same way.”
Lindin nodded, understanding. “This was a test.”
“Correct. And had you failed, I would have made you an undermage for the sewage teams. But, you didn’t fail.” The arcanist rose to his feet, shaking out his robe. “Velsyph was right about you, at least so far.” Again, Harsen smiled. “Now, let’s begin your training.”
He extended his hand to Lindin. The wizard grabbed it, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. Harsen spoke as Lindin stretched his aching muscles, “Do you know the purpose of the Watchers, Lindin? Why we exist?”
“To protect the city.”
Lindin paused. “From outside forces trying to harm the city.”
“To an extent,” Harsen admitted. He waved his hand before the two of them, a trail of blue light following behind. It coiled and twisted, until a representation of the city floated before them. Lines of gold crossed the city, touching every corner of it.
“The city of Arhals is unique in many ways,” he began, “most of which I’m sure you know. First, it is the capital of the Empire. It is the seat of the Senate for the territory of Halslad. It is the place where Argantin revealed himself to us, and showed us the greater applications of the arcane. It has the greatest nexus of ley lines within the Empire. But it is also the most concentrated population of arcane users in the World.”
Red lights lit up across the cityscape, mostly among the floating towers. “Wizards young and old call Arhals home, and use their knowledge of the arcane both in service to the Empire, and for their personal benefit. Many of them like to… experiment with their powers. Push their limits. Which often puts a strain on the spellweave.”
The golden arcs began to flicker, bending harshly to demonstrate the point. “It is our duty as Watchers to ensure that nothing harms the spellweave, or the enchantments that rely upon it. Our work ensures that the wizards of Arhals can continue their pursuits, vital or not, without hindrance. Am I clear?”
Lindin nodded. “Yes, master.”
“Good.” The city faded away, the room darkened once more. “Your first task as a Watcher is to become accustomed to the flow of the spellweave. Dive in, explore it as best you can. Learn every corner of it, and how it should be. If you think something is wrong, alert one of the other Watchers. Take no action yourself.”
Lindin nodded again.
Harsen also nodded, satisfied. “You will report to me at the end of every day what you have seen, and what you have learned. Nothing is too trivial. My duties for the Arcanum are not limited to the Watchers program alone, so we will not speak again in person for some time. If you have any questions, now is the time.”
“No questions, master.”
Harsen frowned. “None?” When Lindin didn’t respond, the arcanist sighed. “Without the proper sense of curiosity, you will not prosper as a wizard. Never forget that.”
Before Lindin could respond, Harsen walked towards the door. “I’m looking forward to your first report. It had better be more promising than what I’ve seen today.”