The next day was announced by a glorious sunrise, etching the few wispy clouds overhead with gold and yellow. Long before the sun rose fully, Dilmir departed his house into the still quiet Eld’rin, low mists covering the ground as he walked. In the half light of dawn, he made his way towards the center of the massive city – the place where four especially long roots, one from each of the four trees, met and tapered into the ground before joining beneath it. Here he selected the broad side of one of these roots and settled himself to wait.
Slowly, the sky grew brighter. The mists retreated to the dark corners, though the place that Dilmir watched was still covered with them. Soon, bobbing towards him through the fast fading darkness, he saw the object of his waiting. Ilrin detached from the mist and came to meet him, her eyes still drowsy. “Morning,” she said, a little vaguely.
Dilmir smiled. He knew she would liven up in a few minutes, as she always did. Together, they made their way towards the massive gate, which unfurled as they approached it, allowing a new day to enter the city.
The ground in front of the city, save for a path leading to the gates, was riddled with small roots coming from the massive trees of Eld’rin. They formed large rings on the ground, the grass within the rings being sunken, forming many small craters. It was within these slightly hollowed out spaces that the mages of Eld’rin taught their pupils of magic, the thing that set the elves apart from the barbaric humans to the North, aside from their features.
Having trained for two years here already, Ilrin and Dilmir separated, and went to wait for their trainers in their separate fields of grass. Soon, mages and their charges came trickling out of the giant city, and began spreading out over the field. Dilmir soon spotted the mage that had been assigned to him, grudgingly, he was sure, hobbling over the roots towards him. Elmir was an old elf, far older than most of the elves in Eld’rin. It was rumored that he had been alive when Eld’rin had been woven into its present state, many hundreds of years ago. Lines creased his face, sprouting from below his eyes in deep furrows and running throughout his face. His hair, still somehow quite thick, was a frail-looking shade of gray. His angular features, common to all elves, were sharply defined as the sun hit them.
Elmir stalked silently past Dilmir, his face blank, his mouth drawn. He took up a position thirty paces from Dilmir, and then, ignoring the fresh sunlight that poured into his eyes, turned to face him. “Begin,” he said, the single word as flat as his expressionless face.
Dilmir sighed, but closed his eyes and delved deep into his mind, searching for the elusive stream of magic peculiar to all elves. Elmir was an elf of few words. His expression never faltered, and he never gave away his feelings. He had been trained well in his day, and he now sought only to pass his training on to others, although Dilmir, perhaps, had not been whom he had had in mind.
Most elves would have had to hunt for their magic for awhile; part of the training was to help them discover where it was. Dilmir, however, knew exactly where his magic was wherever he went.
Power seethed within him, boiling and frothing, yearning to be let out. At first it had been easy to control, in the years when he first came to Eld’rin, but over time it had grown, he was unsure why, and now he could only keep it in check with his mind. This proved to be easy enough, though distracting at times. When Dilmir was called upon to use his magic, however, he had great difficulty in selecting the proper amount.
He had been careful, for seven years, never to let his power escape him. The elves still remembered the night he had slain the wolves, they didn’t need any reminders. Today, however, was a day Dilmir had been dreading for several months.
Elmir’s voice cut into his thoughts, forcing his eyes open. “Today,” he said, his voice as slow as thick syrup and conveying nothing, “you begin to learn of spells. But first,” he added, “you must be tested. Summon for me a globe of water.”
Dilmir smiled, though very briefly. It was customary for the day to start with a review, and this particular request was a trick. He knew because he had failed at it at least a hundred times before Ilrin had worked it out and told him. Instead of searching through the air for particles of water, as most beginners did, Dilmir knelt, placing a hand on the ground, and extended his magic towards the earth below it. He was careful while he did so, using only the magic that he needed, keeping the rest within himself. Once he encountered the hard-packed ground before him, he directed a steady stream of magic at it, allowing the power to flow into the ground smoothly. As he did so, he focused on the magic, causing it to shape and alter the earth so that it would give up the water below it.
Magic, by its very nature, altered things. It was by this that the elves could sense and use it. They had the power to control it, and the way it changed whatever it touched. The trees of Eld’rin had been grown by such means. Elven mages had long ago sown enchantments of growth into their bark, causing them to become tall and thick.
The ground beneath Dilmir’s palm steadily grew soggier, until a little pool of water formed on top of it. Dilmir then focused his mind on the water, causing it to cling to the magic he laced it with.
Magic was not a mystical force that could not be explained. It was a tangible part of Feylund, as common as the air through which it floated. Magic which the elves had not yet used could sometimes be seen in the dark corners of the Great Forest. A shimmering ball of faint light, a curiously growing branch, all were signs of magic, most of which the elves still did not understand. Only when it was used did magic become passive, submitting itself to the will of its caster.
Satisfied that the water would remain in place, Dilmir carefully slipped his hand beneath it, and picked it up. He glanced up at Elmir. He had done the exercise perfectly.
Elmir’s face could have been compared to a tree with ease. No flicker of surprise, no pleased twitch of the mouth escaped him. “Very good,” he said, his voice once again as flat as the plains to the South. “Now we shall begin on spells. I want you to set the patch of grass before me on fire, and then put it out. But this time, do so from where you stand.”
Dilmir frowned. This wasn’t a spell, this was an enchantment impossible to cast. All elves had to touch what they enchanted, for it was a rule of magic. If they did not, the magic would seep from their palm and float away in the air, free once again.
Elmir’s visage remained impassive, however, so Dilmir stretched out his arm, forming the magic with his mind before releasing it. Once the enchantment was fully completed, Dilmir released it at a piece of grass three paces from Elmir, practically throwing it with his mind. It zoomed forward, a faintly shimmering ball of light in the rays of the young sun, but then dispersed, dissolving into the air.
“The trick,” said Elmir, his face acknowledging nothing, “Is to use energy as well as magic. Infuse one with enough of the other to get it across the intervening space between you and your target.”
Dilmir nodded. It had never occurred to him that spells would simply be enchantments with energy. He had always thought they were some higher form of magic, requiring more power, but he was relieved at their true nature. It was hard enough to keep his power in check.
Concentrating carefully, Dilmir formed the magic at the ends of his fingers. Once the spell was complete, he paused. How much energy should he use? Undecided, he put a large amount into the enchantment, and then released it.
With a loud whoosh, as if a tree branch had cloven the air, a dart of red light leapt from Dilmir’s hand and struck the ground. The place burst into flames instantly, hot, orange, smokeless flames that neither grew nor receded, kept in place by the magic that had created them.
Elmir nodded briefly. “Now put it out,” he said.
Once again, Dilmir formed an enchantment, and once again, he placed the same amount of energy into it. He decided to simply end the flames, rather than douse them with water, as the former would not cause any smoke. As an afterthought he added an enchantment that would cause the grass to grow back.
Concentrating on the dancing flames before him, Dilmir released the magic. At first, he thought nothing had happened. But then, the fire flattened, as if it had been covered with a blanket, and then went out, a ring of blackened grass spreading from its center. In another moment, new grass had pushed aside the burnt blades, and all that was left was a faint patch of ash.
Elmir stood observing the place where, moments before, a fire had been. After nearly a minute, he said, “Very good. Most elves take time to cast their first spells, but you seem to have caught on quickly.”
Dilmir froze. Had he done too well? Had he used more magic than he should have?
If he had, Elmir did not show it. “Very well,” he said, looking once again at Dilmir. “Let us move on to other spells. You will find that they differ from enchantments more than you might expect.”
The day wore on. Elmir did very little other than prompt Dilmir in the right direction; he preferred to have him find things out for himself. Dilmir felt he might learn a little faster if Elmir showed him how to do things, but he remained silent. No elf would criticize their teacher.
By the time the sun climbed to the peak of its path, Dilmir had learned a good number of spells. While enchantments were based on slow and careful focus, spells were based on quick action. That explained why mages always used them in combat; they were fast and required far less focus.
Finally, the mages dismissed their pupils. Dilmir saw, out of the corner of his eye, Ilrin stand by the gate, waiting for him.
After a long scrutiny of the sun – elven eyes were not as easily blinded as those of humans – Elmir remarked tonelessly, “Very well. You may go.”
“As ihr selenar imil, manithar,” muttered Dilmir before turning and hastening towards Ilrin. The phrase was the customary farewell to a teacher.
Ilrin waited until he reached her, and then, together, they turned into the city. Dilmir was already tired from casting spells, but the day was only half over.