Julia woke to the sounds of school bells in the distance. “Is it morning already?” she thought to herself.
She steeled herself for another day of difficult classes, impatient stares from her teachers, and her own doubts about being a student at the Mage Institute. After dragging herself out of bed, Julia dressed methodically as she listened to the sounds of seagulls outside of her room.
She glanced over at the huge pile of books at her wooden desk and sighed. “How did I get myself into this?” she thought.
She heard a knock at her door and turned to see Trixie walk in.
“Hey Herbie, ready for classes?”
Trixie was a second year student who had taken it upon herself to be Julia’s guide at the Mage Institute. Julia wasn’t really sure why she had, since they were nothing alike. Julia had mouse-brown hair and a round face, while Trixie had long dark hair, almond-shaped eyes that were a deep shade of violet. Julia tended to wear earth-tones in her dress, while Trixie would wear all black or dark purple dresses. Julia smiled despite her mood.
Trixie, while having a penchant for dark colors, had an effervescent personality that always made Julia smile despite herself “Herbie” was the nickname Trixie had bestowed upon Julia, because she had been brought up as an herbalist by her grandmother. She knew more about which root was good for joint pain, or which plant could stave off bleeding than she did about magic.
Trixie sauntered in, running her finger along the bedframe and desk.
“Are you ready for your classes today? I heard they’ll be especially boring” Trixie smiled.
Julia rolled her eyes. “When is it not boring, Trixie? Seriously, when do mage students actually get to do magic?”
It was Trixie’s turn to smile. “Oh, you first year students” she said in a false bored tone “always wanting to jump the gun. Not like us serious second years. Be glad you don’t have to do magic yet. My lab partner nearly turned the teacher into a tree yesterday.” Trixie smirked. “I’d bet it’d improve his lecture skills.”
“Really?” Julia said, wide eyed.
“Oh Herbie you are so gullible!” Trixie laughed.
Julia winced. She was gullible, and she wondered if her grandmother had made a mistake insisting that she start learning to user her powers at the Mage Institute, instead of staying at the village as an apprentice herbalist. But her tendency to make plants grow out of control, or water to sprout out of the ground made the villagers nervous. Heck, it made her nervous.
“You must learn to control your powers” her grandmother had insisted over a late night bowl of soup. “You have a destiny greater than just a simple herbalist, Julia. You have been given a great gift”.
Julia sighed, grabbed her books, and set out to her classes, trying to catch up with Trixie who had already left.
“...There are essentially 16 different types of Mage. Each Mage gets his or her power from one of the 4 elements: earth, air ...” Julia fidgeted in her chair. She sat in a large classroom with about 20 other mages-in-training, all looking bored out of their minds.
“... and fire. From this source a Mage naturally falls into two categories: Intuitive and Rational. Rational Mages must learn to use their powers by mental discipline: learning spells, memorizing words and motions, etc. This may seem like a tedious way to learn magic, it is actually easier than what Intuitives must do. Intuitives are driven by emotion and will rather than memorization and skill. Intuitives must learn to control their emotions and channel that will on demand. Otherwise the magic will overwhelm them and they tend to destroy themselves.” The Mage Instructor paused. He was a mousy man with a long white beard and huge spectacles that made him look like a forest gnome.
Julia gathered her courage and raised her hand.
“Yes, student Julia?” All eyes turned to her unexpectedly. Suddenly shy, she managed to speak.
“You said there were 16 kinds of Mage. That is only 8”.
“Ah, at least someone is listening in this class.” the Instructor said as he absently adjusted his glasses.
Kyte, a handsome boy about her age, was sitting in the row in front of Julia. He turned around and winked at her. A new kind of nervousness flushed across Julia’s face.
“Each Element has two aspects. Light and Dark. This is the one aspect of a Mage that is his or her choice. Choose dark, and you become evil and destructive. Choose light and you heal, create, and protect. It’s up to you to decide.”
Kyte gestured with his hand. Words appeared on Julia’s desk: “Meet me for clunch after lass”.
Julia smiled and her face grew redder still. The Instructor raised an eyebrow. “Have you chosen the Dark aspect already, student Kyte?” Kyte quickly turned back around, coughing.
“If I may continue? Mages must discover their Element, Method, and Orientation as early as possible...”
Julia found it particularly hard to concentrate on the lesson after that. After class, Trixie found Julia as she usually did but looked askance as Kyte walked up to the girls.
“Gee Herbie, you dont waste any time do you?” Trixie scolded, smiling over her books she held to her chest.
The three of them made their way to the main courtyard which resided in the center of the campus. Large, very old buildings were arranged in an octagonal formation, with a wide, open courtyard in the middle. Students in between classes milled about, using the courtyard as a meeting place to talk and eat.
“Enjoying your classes Julia?” asked Kyte as they strolled along the walkways toward the center of courtyard.
“It’s all so overwhelming” Julia said, as she looked up at the towering buildings. They were all ancient, as the Mage Institute had been around for over a thousand years.
Trixie smiled, “You haven’t seen anything yet, Herbie.” She glanced sidelong at Kyte, pursing her lips coyly. “You seem to be the one enjoying class now that Julia is here” Kyte blushed. “You should be honored, Herbie, Kyte is one of the most sought-after young Mages in the whole school.”
“Trixie!” Julia started, “I -” Then she stared at something huge that stood in the center of the courtyard.
“What - is - that?” she said with round eyes.
Trixie and Kyte turned to see, then looked at each other laughing.
“Oh, I guess no-one has mentioned these things to you, Julia.” Kyte started.
“That,” said Trixie as she waved her hand in a flourish, “is a Remnant.”
As they approached the center of the courtyard something stood before them. It was shaped like a very old man, only it was 20 feet tall, dressed all in brown and grey tatters. It was very hunched over, with a weathered, ancient face and skin like a tree trunk.
“They are leftovers from some ancient war. They were created by the Sagamancers to help fight a great battle” Kyte said, somewhat awed.
“Well, they don’t do much anymore, Herbie.” said Trixie, sighing. “All they do is wander around magical places like this school, and scare small children... And new students!” she grinned at Julia.
Julia shuddered. “Why is everyone ignoring it?”
“They’re harmless.” Kyte reassured her. “They’ve done nothing but wander silently around for hundreds of years. No magic can touch them, and they ignore everyone. So most of us just leave them alone.”
Julia suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
“I think we should go,” she said.
The Remnant turned it’s giant head toward the students. It’s face was long and heavily weathered, but it’s eyes glistened with intelligence. It was so large it moved slowly, like an elephant. It fixed its gaze upon Julia. She fell to the ground. The world seemed to spin around her.
“It’s never done that before!” exclaimed Trixie, stepping back.
“HOLD! CHILD OF THE EARTH!” The walls of the buildings shook with the force of its voice, like huge trees rubbing together in a storm. It took a huge, lumbering step toward Julia, Kyte, and Trixie.
Julia looked up once more, and fainted.