Tossing and turning, I stared at the ceiling in the dark. Despite how soft the mattress was, I was uncomfortable in a bed that wasn mine. The room was a half-circle with a raised bed under the window at the far wall, a desk to the right, and an empty bookcase with a broom leaning on it next to the door.

Penelope and I were staying the night with Zeta. She showed me to the room I was going to stay in as her apprentice and now I was just laying in the dark, contemplating my existence. The more I thought, the more my mind wandered until the room door opened.

”Foods ready. ” Penelopes head poked in with a beam of light. ”How do you feel? ”

”Well, its dark and quiet, ” I said, sitting up absentmindedly. ”I could be jacking off. Did you think of that before you didn knock? ”

Click! She flicked the light switch and flooded the room with a dull light overhead. Stepping into the room, she closed the door behind her and got a better look at me. ”No, you
e not. Don get my hopes up. ” The disappointment in her voice was hard to miss.

I giggled. ”What are you talking about? I don have anything you wanna see, anyway. ”

She folded her arms with a cheeky smirk and looked me up and down. ”Oh? ”

”Yeah. Like, what if I just stripped or something? ” I patted my hands down from my chest to my lap.

”Thatd be a nice show, go ahead. ” Her cheeky smile became more apparent.

Caught completely off guard, I said, ”Wait, what? ”

She walked toward me with a sharp look in her eyes. ”I dare you. ”

I could suddenly feel my heart beating through my chest. ”Uh-wait-no, I was joking. ”

She stopped right in front of me, stared me dead in the eye, and said, ”Let me put it this way: If you strip, I will too. ” She didn have her cloak on so I could see her reach her fingertips under her chest plate as she waited for my reaction.

My mind was just racing and I couldn think of anything at the moment.

”Im just **ing with you. ” She backed off and I gave a hearty sigh of relief.

”Oh, thank god, ” I said, ”I don think I could handle you if you were straight. ”

She scoffed and said, ”You already can handle me, ” while she walked back to the door with sass.

”I believe you. ” I followed behind her.

I should have known better than to mess with her. She always had a way to turn it around and embarrass me. Every once in a while, I could get her flustered, but she seemed to find too much joy in teasing me.

She glanced back at me. ”I can see your boner through your pants, ” she teased.

”No. ” I checked to make sure. ”There isn one. ”

”You had to check, didn you? ” She continued teasing me. ”Just admit it. I got you hard. ”

”Nope, moving on. ” I went past her and opened the door then made my way down the hall to the stairs. ”Hey, why don you want to learn magic with me? ” I asked, both changing the subject and getting around to a question burning a hole in my mind.

”If you can hit something hard enough, youll just blast it with magic whenever you learn how, but if I can hit something hard enough, I can just hit it even harder. I feel like that balances it out enough, don you? ” Something about her explanation didn sit right with me, but I left it alone.

”Took you two lovebirds long enough. ” Zeta was eyeing us as we came down the stairs. She was no longer wearing her cloak but was in a set of black, baggy pajamas. ”I was debating whether or not to go up there myself. ” She went to a kitchen with a table plated with a series of unfamiliar foods and started loading the food onto three plates. After making a small plate for herself she went off into another room. ”Eat up. I have research to do. If you don see me tomorrow, look in here. ” She closed the door behind her and everything went silent.

I looked around for a moment and said, ”Did she really just trust us to be responsible on our own? Like, we could be thieves or something. ”

”No one ever knows what mages are thinking, ” said Penelope, ”I mean, look at my sister. ”

”But she doesn have a tower and she refused to teach me magic. Everyone did. Did they know about my starry eyes? Is that a thing you can just know about without doing the thing with the desk? ”

”I don know. ” She shrugged. ”Maybe if you hang around a mage long enough, they just find out somehow? I know I never knew about it. ”

”Well, that doesn seem to matter now. ” I made my way to the table and examined the food. ”Do you have any idea what any of this is? ” I picked up what looked like a white chicken leg and the white started dripping off to reveal a normal baked chicken leg. ”Oh, I guess its normal… ” I took a bite and my eyes widened. ”This is cheese! ” I exclaimed, ”The white stuff is really creamy cheese and its so good. ”

”Really? ” Penelope took a bite of the one on the other plate. ”Oh my god, if you
e staying here with food like this, so am I. You don deserve to have this to yourself. I mean, I watched her make this and I couldn even tell you what she did so I can even make this if I wanted to. ”

I took a spoonful of some black beans with green mush on top of it. ”Oh, this is pretty good, too. ”

We ate until the plates were empty. In the end, we wanted more but there was only that much. Mildly disappointed, we went back into the room upstairs. As soon as the door closed behind us, a thought suddenly got stuck in my mind.

”I just thought about it, ” I said, sitting on the bed. ”What if we were just kidnapped and we
e too naive to realize it? What if the foods poisoned? ” I looked down at my hands. ”No, wait, she took some herself… But what if? ”

Penelope smiled. ”Ill be the first to tell you that Id die happy if thats the last thing I ate. Besides, if worst comes to worst, you can hit hard and I can hit harder. ”

”But what if the food was drugged? ”

She strolled toward me and punched me in my arm

”Ow! ”

”Stop being so negative. ” She put her hands on her hips with a triumphant look. ”Whatever happens, well get through it together like we always do. ”

”Yeah. ” I laid back and started dozing off immediately. ”Oh man, I didn realize how sleepy I was until now. ”

Penelope yawned. ”Well, we just ate after spending the whole night searching for rocks. ” She turned off the light and we huddled close to each other on top of the blanket.

Whenever wed have an opportunity to sleep or camp out on a commission, wed huddle together to make sure we both stayed warm without having to sleep under more than a tent. It also helped that any disturbance would wake Penelope and shed wake me.

”Penelope? ”

”Oscar? ”

”You did give me a boner. ”

”What? ”

”I still have it? ”

”Don tell me that while we
e sleeping in the same bed. ”

”Too late, you have to live with it. ”

”Eew, gross. ”

Neither of us moved or even dared to change positions and we fell asleep on the spot.

Harsh sunlight invaded my eyes, forcing me awake but not making me open them. I moaned and attempted to roll over until I bumped into something. Reaching around it, I felt both hard metal and softer parts that I couldn put in words. Too tired to think about it, I picked it up and headed out of the room.

Squinting my eyes open, I quickly found myself confused at the layout of the house. The bathroom was normally down the hall to the left and a right at the end. Instead, there was what looked like a small library. I must have fallen asleep in the guest room for some reason.

Trekking downstairs, I let my eyes shut on their own and felt down the wall for the bathroom door. Eventually, I opened a door and took a step in, to the sound of the bathroom tile under my feet.

Finally getting back to wondering about the object under my arm, I started feeling around it with my eyes still closed. There was a hard bulbous section that was definitely made of metal and under it was a very soft and squishy surface. The rest of it was also soft and slightly pliable. I continued to feel different parts until my fingers grazed over something that felt like soft, loose string. Confounded, I turned it upside down and felt around some more.

As I slowly realized what I was holding, I began hoping that it wasn what I thought it was until it hit me between the legs and I fell to the ground with a yelp, dropping the object.

”You awake now? ” Penelopes voice rang loud and clear.

”Yep, ” I groaned. ”What happened? ”

”You got up and picked me up out of my sleep, took me to the bathroom, and started groping me. What were you dreaming about? ”

”Nothing. I just had to pee. I didn know what I was holding so I was feeling around to find out. I thought I was at home. You could have said something. ”

”I did. A lot. But you didn respond. I even hit you a bunch and you just kept going with your eyes closed like a doofus. ”

”How many times did you hit me in the nuts? ”

”Just once. ”

”Oh, ok. Sorry, first time thats happened. ”

”Maybe next time look before picking up a whole person and walking around with them under your arm. You were way too strong for being half-sleep. We
e even now, though. ”

I heard her footsteps trail away while the door leaned against my side. Recovering enough to stand, I closed the door and did my business. Penelope was waiting for me outside the door. She asked me how I felt and I assured her that I was fine.

Since we were now both completely awake, we looked for Zeta in the room she hid away in. We opened the door and peered inside. She was face-down at a desk with a bunch of beakers, black dust, and rocks.

I pursed my lips and whistled to get her attention. She stirred but didn move much. She was asleep. Penelope put her fingers in her mouth and made a shrill whistle that caused both me and Zeta to jump in surprise.

”Wha-wha-wha? ” The disheveled woman looked around with wide eyes. ”Oh, I forgot you two were here. What time is it? ”

”Somewhere around midday, ” I said.

”Penelope, right? ” Zeta stood with a lethargic look on her face.

”Yes. ”

”Are you ready to go home? ”

”About that… ” Penelope looked away with a nervous expression.

”Don wanna go? ”

”Well, I have to convince my family first… ”

”What? Are you not an adult? I mean, I thought you were just short but- ”

”Nonononono- its not like that. Overbearing family, you know? I have a sister. She worries. Its just me and her, so… ”

”Just thought of something, ” I said, ”This might be one of those things that, like, its just agreed upon and unsaid, but why are we staying here at all? ”

Zeta narrowed her eyes on me. ”You have no choice at all but Penelope here would make nice company. ”

”But uh, I remember hearing that mages like to experiment on people, so… ”

”Pshh, is that what you think this is? ” Her demeanor dropped to a more flat tone. ”Well, thats exactly what this is, Im not going to sugar-coat it. Penelope, if you choose to stay here, you will be subject to my experiments. ”

”What kind of experiments? ” said Penelope.

”Nothing too dangerous. Ive taken to performing the dangerous ones on myself. I can at least promise not to put your life in danger. ”

”Then it should be fine. ” Penelope smiled innocently.

”Well, that settles it. ” Zeta made her way to the front door and we followed. On the way, she grabbed her robe from a coat rack and tossed it over herself. ”Where are you two from, anyway? ”

”Goldleaf town, ” said Penelope.

”Then, that should be… ” Zeta reached into the air and summoned a silver staff to her hand and tapped it softly on the ground then it disappeared before I could get a good look at it.

I thought I blinked for a second but I didn . Our surroundings just changed and we were in front of the guildhall. She went in with us behind her and informed the desk of our completion of her commission. We both got our payment and agreed to meet back up at the guildhall by sundown before going separate ways.

I went back to the weapon shop where my dad was manning the counter and my mom was cleaning the back rooms. When I told them about what happened, they looked at me as if they saw a ghost and then asked me if it was really what I wanted. In short, it took me an hour to get them on board with the idea of me going. Whether they wanted me to or not, I was going. They gave me a couple of extra swords and a full set of chainmail which I put in my bags with the rest of my things. They acted strange the whole time and were whispering between themselves.

After making sure I had everything packed, I made my way outside where Danna was waiting for me. I didn notice her until she said something.

”What did you do to Penelope? ” She had her arms folded with her scepter in hand and a look of disapproval in her silver eyes.

”Uhh… ” My mind went haywire for a second and I blurted out the worst combination of words possible. ”You mean, the sleeping? ”

She took a deep breath and her face changed to one of pure rage while a streak of white electricity ran around her body. Realizing my blunder, I dropped my bags, turned, and ran at full speed.

”You slept with her?! ” By the sound of her voice, she was only a few paces behind me.

”No, I didn mean it like that. ” I turned down an alleyway and a white lightning strike narrowly missed me and struck the ground. ”Listen, we only slept, thats all. ” I stopped near the alley where I could duck around a building if something else flew my way.

”Together? ”

”We both fell asleep. Thats all. You startled me earlier so I just said the first thing that came to mind. ”

”Okay. Why are her teeth glowing? ”

”Oh, that? I finally found someone willing to teach me magic, so- ”

”Wait. ” She stored away her scepter and approached me. Gripping my face with her hands, she peered into my eyes. I darted my gaze away from hers and she squeezed. ”Look at me, ” she hissed.

I did as told.

”Shit. ” She let me go and started stomping away. ”Stay away from her. ”

I swiped my hand in front of my face. ”Did you know about this? Is there something nobodys telling me? Even my parents had the same look you did when I told them. ”

She stopped for a second as if she was going to answer me then continued walking. ”Just stay away from her. ”

Now with more on my mind than ever, I headed to a mage shop a few doors down and found Zeta leaning next to the door who assured me I wouldn need anything from there. We then headed back to the guildhall and I made sure to grab my bags on the way.

Penelope was already in front of the building looking around shyly. As we approached, she ducked into the doorway and then poked her head out.

”Something wrong? ” I asked, confused.

”No- nothing, nothings wrong. ” She took a few quick looks around. ”Im ready to go, I was just about to look for a commission, yeah, a commission. ”

”You
e free to take one, but Oscar won be able to do that for a while until he becomes acquainted with the basics of magic, ” said Zeta.

”I got all my stuff, too, ” I said.

”Then can we go, like now? ” Penelopes gaze kept darting left and right as if she was looking for something.

”This was a little short-lived but alright. ” Zeta snapped her fingers and we were teleported back into the tower. ”Okay, put your stuff up, we have to get a jump on this as soon as possible. The longer you go ignorant of your power, the more opportunities for you to do something stupid. ” She hung up her cloak and went to the living room where she waited.

”Wait, are we supposed to be sharing a room? ” I asked.

”What are you talking about? I already showed Penelope a room she could use if she decided to stay. ”

With that in mind, we headed upstairs and entered our respective rooms which happened to be right next to each other. I unpacked my bags, removed my current set of weapons and armor, and put them on the bookshelf with anything else that would fit.

Wasting no time, I stepped out of the room and headed down to Zeta. She was fingering through a book until she saw me. Without a word, she lifted it above her head and with a flick of the wrist, sent it flying at my chest where it made a thump before I caught it in my arms. The title read: Beginners Guide to Magic-Users and Terms.

”Open to the bookmark, ” said Zeta.

I did and it read: WIZARDS: Wizards specialize in the warping of reality. They are an overflowing resource that can produce copious amounts of power. They can , however, hold on to or save much of that natural energy. Usually, they use a surrogate vessel in which to store and impart their magical power to hold on to it.

”Wizard? ”

”Thats what I am. ” She nodded.

”What about me? ”

”Well, you are a Wizards apprentice. ”

”So, Im a Wizard? ”

”Unless that magical trait you have says otherwise, you will be. ”

”So, where do you store your magic? ”

”Im a silent wizard. ”

At first, I thought she just wasn going to tell me but then I looked back at the book and down a list of different types of Wizards, there was exactly what she said.

Silent Wizard: These wizards are typically the most experienced and have learned to harvest their own mana in a way for it to be stored within themselves This allows them a versatility that most other wizards lack.

”Does this mean you
e really strong? ”

”Well, they don call me Pan for no reason. Thats also the name of my tower, by the way. Pans tower. ”

”Pan? ”

”Mythological demon. All the strongest Wizards get a title like that except mine is special. ”

”Cool, what makes it special? ”

”Youll find out tomorrow. For now, you need to help me with something. ” She stood and went to a red door adjacent to the stairs that led to a staircase leading down.

We went down the steps into a cold cellar where strips of leather were hanging from the ceiling by hooks accompanied by animal bones and jars of unidentified ingredients on shelves. A thin strip of black leather was laid across a metal table next to a blank silver medallion.

”Let me wrap this around your neck. ” She held up the leather strip.

”What is it? ”

”Kind of a lock until we can understand your powers. ”

”Like a collar? ”

”More like a choker. If you have a power surge, you won just explode with magic, but youd still be able to use magic enough that I can teach you how to control it. ”

I tilted my head upward and she wrapped it around my neck, pinching the ends together on the back. She let go and it stayed on then she placed the medallion just below the strip in the front and let it go. Now there was a chain link connecting the two.

”Now, hold the medallion and focus on it. ”

”Okay. ” I gripped the metal disk between my fingers and closed my eyes.

My mind immediately went blank and I couldn think of anything. My consciousness floated into a blank nothingness; just the darkness inside my eyelids. I relaxed and an image flashed before my eyes too fast to make it out. I suddenly felt very grounded and I opened my eyes.

”Did I do it? ”

”Yes. ”

”What did I do? ”

”Look at the pendant. ” She held up a hand mirror so I could see better.

There was an inscription of a dragon with its wings spread over its head with small stars spread across them and it had two larger stars for eyes.

”Cool. ”

”With that, the seal is in place. You won be able to take that off until you can control your powers. ”

I tugged hard at it to make sure and I almost strangled myself by accident as I coughed a few times. Embarrassed, I placed my hands in my pockets.

”Was this the thing I needed to help you with? ” I said, between coughs.

”Nope. This was so we can avoid the worst-case scenario. For what I need your help with, well need to go somewhere warmer. ”

We went back up the staircase, up past the second floor, and onto the third. In one of the rooms was an array drawn across the floor with what looked like clear crystal flakes or dust.

”Stand in the center, ” she said.

Carefully, I tip-toed over the dust and stood in the center.

Placing her hands on the floor, the next words she said carried weight as if they flowed through me. ”Elemental resonance. ”

I felt a shiver through my body but it wasn cold, it was hot. The dust on the ground started changing colors from vibrant blue to purple to green and finally settled on red and white. The white settled in the center and made a star-like pattern while the red took the outer edge with a look of fire.

I examined the new shapes the dust took. ”What does this mean? ”

”Lets see. ” Zeta went to a bookshelf nearby and picked out a book then flipped through the pages. ”Well, its more self-explanatory than I thought. ”

The book levitated off of her hand and landed in mine. It had pictures of stars surrounded by different elements and descriptions next to them. The one with it surrounded by fire read: Celestial (birthright) and attunement to flames.

”So, I use fire magic? ”

”Bingo. With that, we
e done for today. ”

”Wait, thats all? ”

”We have to wait for your body to get used to that choker and maybe for it to get used to you before we take any more steps. It was far too expensive to make for it to break because, as I said earlier, you did something stupid. We
e waiting until tomorrow at least. Until then, you
e free to practice your swordsmanship in the training room on the third floor down in the basement. You won have much time for that after we get started. ”

I took her advice and went back to my room to grab a couple of swords then down to the basement. The second floor down was a garden but nothing that was growing looked familiar. I decided to leave when a vine sticking out of a pot started undulating in my direction.

The third floor was a large room filled with training equipment. There was even a short archery range. In terms of weapons, there was pretty much any weapon you could think of sitting on racks against the walls and even guns that shoot rubber pellets.

I picked up a pair of wooden swords and got to work training on one of the many dummies standing across the floor and hanging from the ceiling. After starting, I got so engrossed in it that I didn notice someone watching me from the doorway after a while. When I noticed, it startled me enough that I broke a wooden sword on a dummy.

”You
e really good with a sword, ” said Zeta.

”I grew up in a weapon shop. I learned a thing or two from some of the regulars from time to time and some special techniques from an outlander here and there. Some of them used magic with their swordsmanship and I always wanted to do the same… Sorry about the sword. ”

”So, thats why you wanted to learn magic? Power? ”

”No. More like… I just want to see how far I can push it. Add more to what I can do, you know? ”

”Ah, the pursuit of perfection. I see. Thats something that everyone seeks in their craft be they artisan or warrior. A magic swordsman, on the other hand, is both. ”

”A magic swordsman? Thats the first time Ive heard of that. I like the ring to it. ”

”If you play your cards right, that title will belong to you. But before that, you need to get to sleep. Its past nightfall and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. ”

I put the wooden weapons down and followed her back upstairs to the second floor where we went our separate ways.

Once in my room, I took the time to better organize my stuff and stack everything neatly on the bookcase. There was also a trunk that wasn there before. I put my clothes in it and hopped in bed. Everything that happened that day swirled around in my head but those thoughts didn stop me from falling asleep.

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